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Theory, Culture & Society

Theory, Culture & Society caters for the resurgence of interest in culture within contemporary social science and the humanities. Building on the heritage of classical social theory, the book series examines ways in which this tradition has been reshaped by a new generation of theorists. It will also publish theoretically informed analyses of everyday life, popular culture, and new intellectual movements.

EDITOR: Mike Featherstone, University of Teesside


Roy Boyne, University of Teesside Mike Hepworth, University of Aberdeen Scott Lash, Lancaster University Roland Robertson, University of Pittsburgh Bryan S. Turner, Deakin University

Recent volwnes include:

The Cinematic Society The Voyeur's Gaze

Norman K Denzin

Decentring Leisure Rethinking Leisure Theory

Chris Rojek

Global Modernities

Mike Featherstone, Scott Lash and Roland Robertson

The Masque of Femininity The Presentation of Woman in Everyday Life

Efrat Tseelon

The Arena of Racism

Michel Wieviorka

Undoing Culture

Globalization, Postmodernism and Identity

Mike Featherstone

The Time of the Tribes The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society

Michel Maffesoli

Risk, Environment and Modernity Towards a New Ecology

edited by Scott Lash, Bronislaw Szerszynski and Brian Wynne

For Weber Essays on the Sociology of Fate Bryan S. Turner


Cultures of Technological Embodiment

edited by Mike Featherstone and Roger Burrows


Nigel Thrift


SAGE Publications

London • Thousand Oaks • New Delhi

Everything in the universe is encounters, happy or unhappy encounters

Gilles Deleuze

The essence of being radical is physical

Michel Foucault

Subjects cannot exist outside a world, nor in any conceivable world. The meaning of the term 'objective' is here: the possibility supplied to subjects

List of Tables and Figures

as beings for-themselves by what there is to exist in a world and to organise, each time in another way, what there is.


Cornelius Castoriadis



Perceiving is

consciousness. It is a keeping-in-touch with the world, an experience of things, rather than a having of experiences. It involves awareness-of instead of just awareness. It may be an awareness of something in the enviromnent or something in the observer or both at once, but there is no

content of awareness independent of that of which one is aware.

not an appearance in the theatre of (the individual's)

James Gibson

Social events and not social systems should be our concern in any examination of the human world. Such events are always situated in and brought forth by human actions within a human domain or space; they are never stable because they constantly generate responsive actions that differ from the events that elicited them. This background of human practices (linguistic and nonlinguistic) is what corresponds in the human sciences to the structural coupling in the natural world.

Francisco Varela

The difficulty - I might say - is not that of finding a solution but rather of recognising as the solution something that looks as if it were only a

This is connected, I believe, with wrongly expecting

preliminary to

an explanation, whereas the solution of the difficulty is description, if we give it the right place in our considerations.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

One of the most harmful habits in contemporary thought is the analysis of the present as being, precisely, in history, a present of rupture, or of high point, or of completion or a returning dawn. The solemnity with which everyone engaged in philosophical discourse reflects on his own time strikes me as a flaw. I think we should have the modesty to say to ourselves that, on the one hand, the time we live in is not the unique or fundamental or irruptive point in history where everything is completed and begun again. We must have the modesty to say, on the other hand, that - even without this solemnity - the time we live in is very interesting.

Michel Foucault

'Strange Country': Meaning, Use and Style in Non-Representational Theories



2 On the Determination of Social Action in Space and Time

3 Flies and Germs: A Geography of Knowledge

4 Little Games and Big Stories: Accounting for the Practices of Personality and Politics in the 1945 General Election



5 Vivos Voco: Ringing the Changes in the Historical Geography of Time Consciousness

6 A Phantom State? International Money, Electronic Networks and Global Cities

7 Inhuman Geographies: Landscapes of Speed, Light and Power

Selected Writings by Nigel Thrift and Others






















Knowledge and communication




five kinds of unknowing



The spatial distribution of chapmen licensed in England and Wales, 1697-8



The diffusion of the quarto edition of the EncyclopMie in France, 1777-82



The diffusion of the quarto edition of the Ency/opMie outside France, 1777-82



The life paths and the daily paths of James Clegg (1679-1756) and Richard Kay (1716-51) during one week in July 1745




major components of the process of structuring




geography of the 1935

General Election




geography of the 1945

General Election



Total numbers billeted in reception areas under the official scheme, 1940-5




of the Home Guard, 1940-5




of the Royal Observer Corps, 1940-5



Numbers in the Civil Defence Services of Great Britain,




Date of first report of mechanical clock



Distribution of monasteries and other religious houses:

(a) Benedictine and Cluniac houses founded before 1150;

regular canons, c. 1300; (c) the new orders; (d)

religious houses for women, c. 1300; (e) priories, c. 1300 197-201


Distribution of medieval boroughs



The City of London



Business areas within the City of London, 1938/9



Employment in the City of London, 1801-1991



Location of City of London overseas banks, 1993



The UK National Electricity Supply Grid, 1994


List of Tables and Figures






The General Elections of 1935 and 1945

Proportion of unaccompanied schoolchildren and mothers and children evacuated from some of the major urban areas of England at the outbreak of war

Employment in Great Britain, 1938 and 1944

Population increases in selected towns whose population increased by 4 per cent or more, 1938-42

Housing out of civilian use in the United Kingdom, 1944

The distribution of population of Great Britain by region, 1938 and 1942

Consumer purchases of newspapers, magazines and books in the United Kingdom, 1938-44

Fulham Election results, 1935 and 1945 155








Some characteristics of theories and accounts









Reconstruction of the monastic day at the beginning of the (b)


Rates of pay at two of the King's works in the thirteenth century





The expansion of SUbjective experience: increasing travel over four generations of the same family


Mediating concepts in the schemas of various members of the structurationist school


The life path seen as a compositional ordering and a contextual field


Elements of conflict in context








The bulk of this book consists of a set of seven extended essays. The first essay was written especially for this book. It is followed by three 'earlier' essay~, ori~n~y.published iu 1983, 1985 and 1986, which are reproduced here m the~ongmal fonn. Three 'later' essays, one published iu 1988, the other two m 1994, have been extended and updated for this volume. E~ch of th~sedifferent essays has one thing iu common. Hovering, like a bUZZIng fly, m the background of all of them is a commitment to devel. oping a historical geography of thought, defined as the study of 'the problematizations through which beiug offers itself to .be, necessarily, thought - and the practices on the basis .of which these problematizations

with a particular

onto!ogtcal-cum.eplstemologlcals tan ce which includes, at the

commitment to a historicism, but of a limited rather than a full~blo~ kind, to situated knowledges~and to alight theoretical touch. In iutrt, this stance has four consequences.

~irst,it h~slea me towar~i'/fatter'theories of society, theories which see

very least a

are fo~ed' (Fou~ult, 198~, p. H), This is a project

SOCIety as nelther an underlymg code nor an inscribed surface but rather as m~re or less spatially and temporally extensive networks ofpractices which pom~ not onlytotheabsences in eve;ry presence, a commonpoststruc- turali.st mantra,Dut also to;thepr~sences:ineveryabsence' In.ot8'etwords,

practices are inherently dial.o~cal,a.ff~ctivelychargedalld0riente<ltowards

~u~al;re.co~tion(J.Bel1j~n,1988). Se~~nd, it has rneantthin/iing of objects as actzve presences in these networks of practices. In this hook timekeeping devices, money and machines/for example;afl.botlr lean o~ ~d are attached to these networks hut, in tum, ilieYalso take on a kind of life ?f ilieir own (Theweleit, 1994). Third,. it has forced me to express

~nSlderable.scepticism about'repreientaJi()n~, understoodassingularised

unages standi~gf~rs0D:lethi~gelse.Repr~sentationalhabitsofthinking still

dogge~y perSIst mthe SOCIal ~ciences and humanities. In contrast, this boo~ IS .more concerned wlth'presentations', with showings and manifestations, iliat. characterise social knowledge in use (Curt, 1994). In tum, that means bemg able to escape a set of tyrannies:

accounts of a 'real'. world ~o not, !hen, depe!1d on a logic of 'discovery', but on a powe~.charged.SOClal relation of conversation'. The world neither speaks itself no~~sappearsIn favour of a master decoder. The codes of the world are not still,

Wat~g only to be read

or discovery guarantees anything. (Haraway, 1991a, pp. 198-9)

no particular doctrine or representation or decoding

and relatedly, it has guided me towards a modest view of the

<al~COlmp,tisllments of 'theory'.

Theory is situated and recast as


set of

YlllnTlltl,re sketches, as 'fictions' in Foucault's sense of the tenn, arising out deficiency in our having-to·do wiili the world concertfully' (Heidegger, p. 88). And the knowledge produced and regulated by that 'ilieory' is

knowledge, like truth, is relative to understanding. Our folk view of knowledge as being absolute comes from the same source as our folk view that truth is absolute, which is the folk theory that there is only one way to understand a. situation. When that folk theory fails, and we have multiple ways of under- standing, or 'framing' a situation, then knowledge, like truth, becomes relative to that understanding. (Lakoff, 1987, p. 300)

In other words, I want to achieve a contingent foundationaliSlD. 'This is not fp.sayno foundations exist but railier, that wherever there is one, iliere will

Foundations exist only to be put

into question' (Butler, 1992,p.16); Put another way, I have been concerned provide narrative sketches of the world which always leave open ilie 1p.osrsllllwty of creative play and I have toldiliese stories from witllin a <ni~mMr ofditrerent arenas, fromilie landscapes of war (1983b, 1985c,

also be a foundering, a contestation,

<Hr86'7) to the search for democratic economic practices (1994a, 1!J94m, and, as iliesix chaptet's that follow tl1e introductory chapter show, ,ccttom:meClleVai tinle consciousness to modem international finance.


;: •.:fl1es:es:1X chapters· are ··also .boundtogetherby· other-concerns. First, I .>tlria}~e·c)]:aimsabout orderings andllot about orders. It follows that I am not §.}:'<l1't1ctltlarly interested in producing a finished,systematic ilieory of

/illQ:ptlter;t1tity or:postn1odemityiu ilieseccliapters, iu .part .because I do


i.;l~li!~ve ti1~It.sncl~:.a.feat is-possible{oinecessary} and, in part, because


lr@l.1V'iattell1p:l,s tooo>so·liave.:beeniaced with: alL kindS: of .customs and of them inherited fr()mthepatrician. elite of Ancient >JSJj~~)'w1tich>al:el:lct1Llhlly fu do. with forming a". specular watchtower. ;~1tio'w.e'Vrer. itrusafollowsthatcfamalsonotparticularly interested iu going

to iliese

.tt'} thl'·'opp1Qsi1te~~xti~ens[e. which,. in fact, ·olllyboldsup a mirror

;CaIstomisand~pr~lctices,b]ra1idtngtotl1e multiplying kinds of .s~lf-conscious

.rtoIIlmleIlltariiescon aeademictexts~whichnowSeem to be in vogue. Like !:;;atol:1f (1988}>and Bourdieu {1990ai'Bourdieuand ·Wacquant, 1992),· I

• betle'lre tbattoo many of these>exercisesin.'reflexivity' are simply a means o{=refreating frO:1l1the one special responsibility that Ido think academics . have~which is to multiply the '.commnnicativeresourcesiliat· people have available to them. In other words, iliesereflexive exercises too often end up simply patronising readers, both through making ilie absurd assumption that readers naively believeiliattexts are in some way related toa referent out there and through making ilie assumption iliat a text about ilie way a text is produced is somehow more reflexive than a text wiili an actual object. Instead, I am in favour of what Latour (1988) calls 'infra· reflexivity'i which includes in its credo: ilie defiationof meiliodology and its replacement by style; self.exemplification railier tl1an self-reference; being



on the side of the known rather than on the side of knowing; not being ashamed of weak explanations; working for equal relations between the represented and the representational; and automatically assuming transdisciplinarity. Whether this means that my stories are 'theories', I am not sure (M. Hannah, 1992). Second, these six chapters constantly cross the boundaries between categories like the economic, the social and the cultural. I want to see these categories, which are in any case increasingly redundant, fail. Why? Because, too often, they signal a kind of self-censorship on the part of authors about what it is appropriate for them to study (M. Morris, 1992b), or, even worse, a kind of intellectual snobbery. Third, I use large amounts of historically and geographically specific material. I do this because, on the whole, I am wary of purely theoretical excursions. Their lack of contextual detail (which usually means that they have a very specific but uncharted context) often makes these exercises obscure, even as claims to the contrary are being registered (Bordo and Moussa, 1993). Fourth, and finally, I have striven for a particular, tentative written style. which at one time might have been called 'meat and potatoes' but nowadays is probably best described as 'simple side salad'. One of the most important insights of poststructuralism is that 'what we can communicate can be overcom~ by a change of style' (Wood, 1990, p. 116), but, in practice, this has often meantiliatwriting has become elliptical rather than multidirectional and therefore.reliant on petrified exegetical and interpret- ational habits (including many of the manifestations of deconstruction); In particular, I have triedt0writeinaway which mirrors my concern with undermining the 'represettt;rtion'50fl.ntention or meaning which· can. so easily turn into the cOrllpu1:~i()n:'t(};seemeanings, and particularly· hidden

ones, everywhere'(Pfeiffe~,1~~4;~ 7)

It has to be said thatthisbp~h:$beenalongtime coming.lnpart, this

tardiness is the result O:fUl~atQ2e:1lJ.en~ion:edsuspicions.about the powers of

what is conventionally regar:4¢~,as.theory In part, itisbecause I have tried to forge a particular fOFm1)ftheory; one that is always situated, and, in consequence, I have tried to move' away from the kind of abstract theory which washes away contentby;ign:oring context,. ·leaving .ouly empty

panoptic visions. In part, it is because,except for

a brief period when

structuration theory was 'in', I havepur:sued these thoughts outside the theoretical and empirical mainstream of geography, a subject within which I have been glad to live my life but which seems to me to have a disturbing tendency to sort itself into cosy intellectual-interactional coteries too quickly and too finally. Then last, it is also because, in .part, I have some doubts about the ethics of sitting comfortably theorising in a study when the world is clearly in such a dreadful state: I have always wanted to produce 'theoretical' excursions in parallel with more 'applied' work which can have some immediate impacts, however humble these might be. What is certain is that this book could not have been produced at all



being able to translate the affirmative energies of many people. It is

or stop -

them. book is, first of all, the product of convivial contexts. I want to single three of these. At the Australian National University, I want to thank Forbes, Mike Taylor and Peter Williams. At Saint David's University

in making due acknowledge-

to know where to start -

~Ol1eg:e, Lampeter, I want to acknowledge the sturdy companionship of Cloke and David Kay. At the University of Bristol I have received the .Sllpport of many, many people but especially Malcolm Anderson, Keith c (.uasseu; Allan Frey, Paul Glennie, Peter Haggett, Les Hepple, Tony Hoare, Routledge, John Thomes and Sarah Whatmore. • • c· Second, I want to single out some of my co-authors over the years. I often with others (as the list of Selected Writings makes clear). I would only that this has been a matter of principle as well as a source of pleasure it seems to me that if, as I believe, authorship, like subjectivity, exists 'Ilketvveenpeople, then we can either acknowledge this overtly or covertly, and prefer the former option. Those who have shared a third space over the have included Ash Amin, Jonathan Beaverstock, Tommy Carlstein, Cloke, Stuart Corbridge,.Peter Daniels, Michael Dear, Peter Dicken, Glennie, Peter Jackson, Ron Johnston, Andrew Leyshon, John

,Qvenlllp:, J

Don Parkes, Richard Peet, Steve Pile, Allan Pred, Mike Taylor Williams. I want to thank the postgraduate students who I have been




or CQ,supervising over the



.nrodluet,d inspiration (and references) when I most needed them: Jonathan NlckBingham, James Boardwe1l, Catherine Brace, Paul Rebecca Chiu; Ian Clarke, Ian Cook, Mike Crang, Neil {<~thjll~m;on, Marcus Doel,Rowan Douglas, Shaun French, Emily Gilbert, :!)anrenHall, Billy Harris, Rob Harris, Bon Holloway, Sonia Juvik, Birgit ""CHI.C;I. Alan Latham, Phil McManus, Kris OIds, Doug Porter, Martin

·;M.ocnle, Paul Sheard and Richard Smith. Fourth, I want to make mention of my journal compatriots over many Michael Dear, Derek Gregory, Peter Jackson, Gerry Pratt and Allen Scott at Society and Space, and John Ashby, Trevor Barnes, Bill Clark, Ron Johnston, Paul Knox, Jan Schubert, Sarah Whatmore, Ros Whitehead and Alan Wilson at Environment and Planning A. Fifth, I want to note all the people who specifically commented on one or more of the seven essays in this book: Barbara Adam, John Allen, David Austin, Etienne Balibar, Jack Barbalet, Deirdre Boden, Robert Brenner, Phil Cooke, Denis Cosgrove, Mike Crang, Mike Davis, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Nigel Dodds, Gary Dymski, Neil Fligstein, Anthony Giddens, Derek Gregory, Chris Hamnett, Ray Hudson, Geoffrey Ingham, Bob Jessop, Marina Jirotka, Ron Johnston, Kenichi Kawasaki, Andrew Leyshon, John Lovering, Tim Luke, Doreen Massey, Danny Miller, Gunnar Olsson, Chris Paris, Steve Pile, Allan Pred, Ulker Seymen, John Shotter, Ed Soja, Malcolm Smith, Judith Squires, Richard Swedberg,

Chris Paris, Steve Pile, Allan Pred, Ulker Seymen, John Shotter, Ed Soja, Malcolm Smith, Judith Squires,



Peter Taylor, John Urry, Richard Walker, Ed Weissmann, Sarah Whatmore, Peter Williams and Anna Wynne. Andrew Sayer gave the complete manuscript of the book a close and careful reading and his constructive challenges have often forced me to rethink or rephrase, always for the better. Sixth, I cannot help but acknowledge the particular help and comradeship of Ash Amin, Trevor Barnes, Gordon Clark, Paul Cloke, Paul Glennie, Derek Gregory, Chris Hamnett, Andrew Leyshon, Allan Pred, Mike Taylor, John Urry (who suggested the book's title) and Sarah Whatmore. Last, but certainly not least, my love and apologies go to Lynda, Victoria and Jessica. They chiefly experienced this book as a series of bad moods.


1. Italicised date references relate to entries in the list of Selected Writings.


author and publisher wish to thank the following publishers, journals . editors for kind permission to reprint these papers: to Edward Arnold 'The arts of the living and the beauty of the dead: anxieties of being in work of Anthony Giddens', Progress in Human Geography (1993), 17, 11-21; Pion Ltd for 'On the determination of social action in space and Environment and Planning D. Society and Space (1983), 1, 23-57; IVJ.i:tClLUll<W for 'Flies and germs: a geography of knowledge', in D. Grego~ J. Urry (eds) Social Relations and Spatial Structures (1985), pp. 330- Croom Hehn for 'Little games and big stories: accounting for the practices of personality and politics in the 1945 General ~lection'.' in .K. Hoggart and E. Kofman (eds) Politics, Geograph~ ~d Soclal Stratifi~atlOn (1986), pp. 90-155; Routledge for "Vivos voco: rmgmg the changes m the historical geography of time consciousness', in T. Schuller and M. Young (eds) The Rhythms of Society (1988), pp. 53-94; Butterworth-Heinemann for (with A. Leyshon) 'A phantom state? The ~etradi~onalisation .of money, the international financial system and mternational finanCIal centres' Political Geography (1994), 13, 299-327; Paul Chapman for 'Inhnm~geographies: landscapes of speed, light and power', in P.J. Cloke, M. Doel, D. Matless, M. Phillips and N.J. Thrift Writing the Rural. Five Cultural Geographies (1994), pp. 191-248.


'Strange Country': Meaning, Use and

Style in Non-Repres~ntational Theories


Someone coming into a strange country will sometimes leam the language of the inhabitants from ostensive definitions that they give him [sic], and he will often have to guess the meaning of these definitions, and will guess sometimes right, sometimes wrong.

(Wittgenstein, 1958, part I, no. 32)


The six chapters that follow on from this one are informed by a developing theoretical framework, one which has been laid down gradually over a nnmber of years. In the chapters that follow, that framework is often implicit: in this introductory chapter I want to make it explicit. Authors are often accused of simply wanting to share their obsessions with the reader. I am afraid that I am no different. From an early point in my academic career, my obsessions have been fourfold. The first obsession has been with time-space. The first two working papers I produced, as a

postgraduate student, in 1973 and 1974, were both on time-space and they have subsequently been followed by a stream of books and papers on theoretical accounts of time and space, from Althusser and Gurvitch to Moore and ZiZek, on time-space entrainment, on time-space convergence (now, for some odd reason, known as time-space compression), on time- space budgets, and on the historical geography of time consciousness. Each of these works, from the earliest one on, were informed by one simple principle, that it is neither time nor space that is central to the study of hnman interactional orders, but time-space. Whilst I might now quibble with the details of my conclusion to two linked papers published in 1977 {l977b, 1977c),1 the sentiments expressed therein still ring true:

The essential unit of geography is not spatial, it lies in regions of time-space and in the relation of such units to the larger spatio-temporal configurations. Geography is the study of these configurations. Marx once said, 'one must force the frozen circumstances to dance by singing to them their own melody'. The frozen circumstances of space only come alive when the melody of time is played. (1977b, p. 448)

The second obsession is with the sensuousness of practice. My focus on practice was initially the result of reading Marx but some of the limitations



of his account of how social being determines consciousness became clear in the attempts ofE.P. Thompson and Raymond Williams to forge a 'cultural' Marxism based on ways of life (for a review, see J983b). For me, these attempts contained some fundamental flaws. 2 But they also made me think more openly about practice. Indeed, it was the work of E.P. Thompson which pointed me to the importance of both Pierre Bourdieu (in E.P. Thompson, 1967, 1978) and Cornelius Castoriadis (as Castoriadis and as 'Paul Cardan', in E.P. Thompson, 1978, fn. 167) (1979f). In turn, it was Bourdieu's work which directed me to the triptych of Heidegger, Wittgenstein and Merleau-Ponty, and to the importance of properly theorising time, ways of life and embodiment. At the same time, Castoriadis made me aware of the dynamics of the imaginary and, incidentally, in The Imaginary Institution of Society (1987), provided what is still the seminal critique of certain kinds of Marxism. I have also always been obsessed by the subject. My idea of the subject started out by being synonymous with human individuals, fuelled by work

on 'time-geography', life histories and biography more generally, and by' Williams's and Thompson's more open versions of Marxism which opened up a space for the person, both theoretically and historically. But it rapidly became clear that I was interpreting these accounts in ways that came perilously close to a Cartesian view of the subject. As a result, I under-


the importance ofthe between-ness of joint action,· and in general

drew the bounds of the subject too tightly so that I was excluding many crucial relations between subjects and objects (and, indeed,· misunderstand-

ing the very nature of thesubject

attempted to correct these kinds ofproblems by paying more attention to processes of subjectification,by attt)mpting to reconfigure what Merleau- Ponty (1962) called 'self':'other-things', and by trying to imagine and image

new figurations of the subject. Finally, I have an obsession with agency, understood as both the production of action and of what counts as action (and of actors and of what counts as actors). In the first case,that has meant being mainly concerned with the 'wellsprings' Ofa.etiveparticipation in new beginnings and how these have varied historically and geographically, and most especially, in my case, in the growth of texts and their investment with productive potential and affect. In· the second case, that has meant a concern with a new 'classification of things' (Latour, 1993) in which the bounds between subject and object become less easily drawn, both because the inside and the outside of the subject are seen as folded into each other and because the things we have conventionally depicted as objects, for example machines, are allowed into the realm of action and the actor. Many of these thoughts on agency were initially stimulated by the work of Anthony Giddens. Although the mention of Giddens's name nowadays hearkens back to debates over structure and agency which have become passe, I believe that the task he set of describing agency remains a significant one. Whilst It would not be true to say that the importance of


relationship). In later work, I have



has been forgotten in the social sciences and humanities (feminist



on new figurations of the subject is a shinin~case in point~, I

do n~t

it would be unfair to say that it still receIves less attention than It

debates, I do not apologise


and to revert to the terms of the old

the fact that this book is weighted towards the consideration of agency than structure. These four obsessions are coded in nearly all of my work as a concern the context of the situation (or the complexification or mediation or of the event). By 'context' I most decidedly do not mean an backdrop to situated human acti~ty. Ra~er, I take c?ntext t~ be nelcessal:Y constitutive element of mteraction, something active, ifel'eDJtially extensive and able to problematise and work on the bounds :"l1hi,,~ti'vit'l/~Context operates on three levels in my work. On one level, reflects an ambition to move away from doing theory by fnductin~ abstract thought experiments towards a style of work which to the knowledge we already have, and does not assume a common ~W'OUild when this is precisely what is at stake (Wilkes, 1988), On

@.c*h4~r level, it is an empirical pointer to the ways in which the consti- of practices varies with context. Take, just as one example, the case

mgua.!lie, The consideration of context automatically challenges corre- .theories of meaning. A contextual approach challenge~ the any semantic a.pproach to offer an exact characterisation of words meaning of utterances is rooted in action-in-context. Then on one ooll'eleVElL it is a theoretically loaded term.· Take the example of language

',b::onte:Iltwu variationsexacerb!lte the problematic nature of the featural charac- ;f~risa,tion~ Not only can a .definition not3fCOunt for allpossib~e.cases. but dejini1ion of each case may itself be subJect to contextual vanations , . , a ',r;!!l'Velltclaariictflrislic may hold in one context hut not in another. (Shanon, 1993,

on, to point tna whole series of features of language which ~JiUJ~ly depend on context: polysemy, novel'uses of words, mi.susa~,

DM'3.s~ilcoll1fposition.translation, labelling, even prototypes. Such lingwstic '~q0si1derati4lnsof context hardlyexbaust the ramifications of the term but start to hint at its rlchnessand importance in the kind of non-

rel:>reisentatiional framework I am at pains to develop through the rest of


In ~ matter of context, in other words, the four obsessions I

listed gather together and become one. kinds of obsessions could not be easily handled in a number of the intellectual frameworks which existed when I first began to be gripped by them. These frameworks tended to privilege time over space, clung to a 'ispeculilU' and implicitly male model of the subject-object relation, tended to the neo-Kantian (in that they gave precedence to an a Frior! syst~m of categorisation, whether the unconscious or the ~ymbohc, discursIve or ideological order, which defined the mode of being in which objects appear



and can be recognised, and in which the subjectivity of persons is con- structed) and insufficiently problematised representation. Such frameworks

are less common now but it can hardly be said that all their sins have been

of time often seems to have been substituted for by




pnvilegmg of space (for example, Soja, 1989). The specular model of


subject-object relation still has its effects on theory (for example, D.W.

Harvey, 1989), Neo-Kantianism can still be seen at work in a number of interpretations of Marx, Derrida and' Foucault and others which too quickly connect the things of logic to the logic of things. A hardly problematised sphere of representation is allowed to take precedence over

lived experience and materiality, usually as a series of images or texts which

a theorist contemplatively deconstructs, thus implicitly degrading practices. 3

In other words, the kind of hesitant, partial and situated thinking I have striven for in the chapters that follow is still relatively unfamiliar in the

s~cial~ences and humanities, most especially in human geography, which still regtsters only a very small number of theoretical traditions. 4 The result

is ,that problems of misrecognition abound, of which I will point, very

bnefly, to just a few.

First, there is the problem of what Merleau-Ponty called the 'retro- spective illusion': theorists produce a logocentric presence which then becomes the precondition·of research, a towering structure of categories lowering over the ant-like actions of humans and others which. constitutes the 'empirical'raw material. Such an illusion still exists in some parts of the social sciences and humanities. Even in cultural studies, which has invested most in a critique of this tendency, there is a tendency to fall back on phrases which smuggle an a.bsent presence into the centre of what are meant to be decentredacc0 1lIl ts, a vilfaillcalIed 'capitalism', or 'patriarchy', which can be hissed off stageatconvt}!lient moments. Second, and related, theproducti~Ilcofsucll a presence is often associ.ated with what Bernstein (M;A.Bernsteiu, .1994) has called 'foreshadowing', that is, an apocalyptic. history o~ inevitable moments leading. inevitably towards a predefined goal or fate<whichA.:ommentators alreadyknow,a goal or fate in which everything.becolllesfaster, more compressed in space and time, more commodified,annsoon,·This logic of historical.inevit.,. ability depends upon the dubious>f<leathathistory has a coherence other than what we impress upon it. It is rather like someone running through the town after the Pruitt-Igoe Flats were dynamited in 1972 shouting 'postmodern capitalism has began'. In its most pernicious variant, fore- shadowing leads to what Bernstein (M.A. Bernstein, 1994, p. 16) calls 'backshadowing', in which 'the shared knowledgesof the outcome of a series of events by narrator and listener is used to judge the participants in those events, as though they too should have known what was to come'. Found most commonly in retroactive accounts of the Shoah, this practice is also common in accounts of the onset of new technologies.

A third, seemingly eternal problem is making the micro-macro dis-

tinction. This distinction is still remarkably common in the social sciences



humanities, even though it is neither empirically observable nor )l'etically sensible (Giddens, 1984; Boden, 1994); only the latest variant 'local' and the 'global'. Yet, as Latour (1993, p. 122) puts it, the 'local' and 'global' 'offer points of view on networks that are by neither local nor global but are more or less long and more or less

fourth problem is often, although not always, linked to this distinction. the problem of misrecognising the flow of everyday life as, well, . But what Pollner (1987, p. xvii) calls 'the extraordinary organis-

of the ordinary' has to be seen in a different way. 'It is not a or an entity, nor is it self-evident' (Dreyfus, 1991, pp. 10-11). It therefore, be seen as just a frill or a frame (Vattimo, 1988) around stl"lucture:s, a side-show to the 'real' business of existence. It cannot be as a separate and somehow more authentic sphere of 'everyday 'lifeworld' which, in different formulations, can be found in authors

. as Habermas and Lefebvre. And it is not just a call to bring in', as though one was a humanist trying to balance up anti-

widespread, problem is the assumption that there has been a erosion of the social and that we are inevitably moving towards a >:l:lh"'1:rA.l\t~ decontextualised, dehumanised and generally disenchanted in which the lifeworldis taken over by the system, 'authentic' programmed consumer spaces, tactics by strategies, and so on is·.~Il'.g1llment:is.mclre often assumed than demonstrated; many authors \,.oieginn1Lng to believe that our world may not be so very different '.X1Al.lt>l" that have gone bef:ore it and that such a view rests on a oppositions. (Latour,. 19!}3; Knorr~Cetina,· 1994; Ingold,

ways, First, it rests OfpaIUClllm':be:lief'sy:stetns or modes of operation 'substance',· ,the <life-world', etc. in !f;·l;he::prop!)sitton ofthe·lossbfmeaning mmoaem:andpostmodem life

:~§9f this eqttau.,Qn, it amoUJ:ltst{}a.histori~lypl.a~ible.but trivial

of meaningstr:uctures, Second, the assump-

and .abstract systems .ignores the

are never abstract when they are enacted. abstract elements lies not in their formal definition the thesiS fails in that it has not been systematically

nstJratc:d~~ml)hil~aUy. InJact, assessments like. that of a trend towards the

• microsociological studies

which demonstrate the procedures and forms of this life-

teQbni cal

world are ironic in the face of


1994,p. 6)

Fit1allv. then, what we see over and over again is the problem of theor- :etf4:;aI:pun11catl0n of practical orders. Commentators conjure up a purified 8'1l'Stemwhich is able to move inevitably on its way, an unstoppable glacier, :tr,an!lfolrmiing all before it and stamping out everything behind it, a system which is inured to the idea that 'nothiug· is settled; everything can still be



altered. What was done, but turned out wrong, can be done again' (Levi- Strauss, 1973, p. 393), and which therefore continually elevates uncertain forces into certain gods.

Take some smaIl business-owner hesitatingly going after a few market shares ' some conqueror trembling with fever, some poor scientist tinkering in his lab ~ lowly engineer piecing together a few more or less favourable relationships'of force, some stuttering and fearful politicians; tum the critics loose on them, and what do you get? Capitalism, imperialism, science, technology, domination _ all equally absolute, systematic, totalising. In the first scenario, the actors were trembling; in the second they were not. The actors in the first scenario could be defeated; in the second they no longer can. In the first scenario the actors were still quite close to the modest work of fragile and modifiable ~ediations now they are purified and they are all equally formidable. (Latour, 1993, p. 126)

This chapter tries to elaborate on some of these preliminary thoughts in two sections. The first section constitutes a kind of intellectual accounting in that it sets out some of the main strands of thought that have influenced my thinking on time-space, practice, subject and context. The second section moves on from this process of accounting to the bottom line; an exposition of the principles that - in one way or another and in more or less developed form - motivate the chapters in this book.

Theories af Practice

This first and longest section of the introductory chapter lays out some of the main tenets of non-representational thinking which, in turn, have had a

major influence on my own work.

These schools of thought all deny the

efficacy of representational models of the world, whose main focus is. the

'intemal~, and whose· basic terms or objects are symbolic representations, and are Instead comn:i~t~non-representational models of the world, in

which the focus is. 'e;~~~ar and.inwbich basic terms and objects are forged in a manifold of:~tions al1~Hnteractions. I will. not be.giving a complete review ofall:suchnon-representational models: this is a .task which is well beyondtheSCQ~(}faIlintroduction. In particular I will be referring to, but not pro9uijp~amoreextensive account of: the work of


Leonti ev and Luna (for example. Wertsch, 1985a, 1985b), the ecological psychology of Gibson (for example,Gibson, 1979), the Latin American 'autopoietic' school of Maturanaand Varela (1980, 1987; Varela, 1989; Varela et al., 1991; Varela and Anspach, 1994), the work of Taussig on mimesis (for example, Taussig, 1993), or Bakhtin's (1984, 1986) dialogical philosophy of language (for example, Clark and Holquist, 1984; Folch- Serra, 1990). But what it does seem worthwhile providing at this juncture is a summary of some of the main tenets of these non-representational models. Of course, non-representational thinking isa broad church and not all these tenets are shared equally (or equally well) by all its members. An act of

the R~sian schoo~.ofactivity tile0l"Y,cpnsisting of writers like



therefore always runs the risk of producing a non-existent average. with such a caution borne in mind, it is possible to identify at of these tenets. and most trivially, non-representational thinking throws a critical theories that claim to re-present some naturally present reality, or, (1972, p. 26) telling phrase, 'the pure gold of things them- ,.jllll:;IL<;",'U, it argues that practices constitute our sense of the real. and accordingly, it valorises practical expertise. That is, it is con- thought-in-action, with presentation rather than representation.

traditional emphasis on the cognitive, the attempt to explain all human in terms of what we believe and how we consciously represent things oUrselves cannot account for the implicit familiarity and competence that

halbna.rks of everyday practical activity. Explicit representations of things practical world and conscious beliefs we form within practical contexts

presul'lpOlle this non-represented and

non-representable background of

and expertise. (H. Hall, 1993, p. 131)

this valorisation of thought-in~action emphasises the particular in that it suggests that representation is always a part of presen- out in a. specific context which invites only particular kinds of practices. But it does not do this. naively; by producing accounts which isolate each moment from the one preceding following it (Carr, 1986; Copjec, 1994b). if is concerned with thinking .with the entire body. In turn, this non-representational models Yalorise.aU.the senses, and not just alld their procedures are not modelled solely on the act of UIUSO Im:~Ullithat affect .isseen as of primary importance, because Ilotborri of other thoughts. Thought has its origin in the


of consciousness, a sphere that includes our inclinations interests and impulses, and our affect and emotions. The volitional tendeneystandshehind thought' (Vyg()tsky, 1987,


I,andrelatedly,it invites a degree.of scepticism about the 'linguistic ;'""'.~,,-.-~_,~;~1 sciences andhumanities,suggesting that this turn has too frotn'much that is most interesting about human practices, ;eSjpec:iallly their . embodied and situated' nature,. by stressing certain l'<h;"t;.·t'hP yerba1~cum-visua1 as 'the only' home of social knowledge' p; 139) at the expense of the haptic, the acoustic, the the iconic (Claasen, 1993; Serres, 1986). and finally, it is concerned with a rather different notion of )I~lali[on»1\rhi(:b is probably best likened to understanding a person, a Q.()luellaliism of character which involves, more than other approaches, and ethical components: 'one reads the story of the life of a fonowsthe story, one travels for awhile together with that and eventually one gains understanding of him or her. When lli!ierslt'andiIlrg has been achieved one discovers that one can tell a story' {~DiUlOID, 1993, p. 362). Or, put another way, 'how does one determine that



a painting is well composed, that it sits well? By dancing it' (Shanon, 1993,

Ultimately, in other (than) words, one depends - one has to

depend - on non-cognitive 'facts':

p. 353). S

The body knows whether things are balanced or not, whether they are in equilibrium, or not, whether they fit or not. Agents moving about in the world know how to find their way in it. Social agents appreciate whether the other is kind, honest, or boring, or attractive. Likewise, atfectively one knows that things are good or bad (for the given agent), pleasant or not so. And ethically, one appreciates that things are right or wrong, fair or despicable. In all these cases what is being determined is whether or not things fit, click, or feel right. (Shanon,

1993, p. 353)

Understanding is not so much, then, about unearthing something of which we might previously have been ignorant, delving for deep principles or digging for rock-bottom, ultimate causes (Diamond, 1991) as it is about discovering the options people have as to how to live. Not empiricism, then, yet a kind of realism (Witt~enstein, 1956), since 'what I do with examples, what I do in explaining, may be essential in making manifest what I mean, but the explanation of what I mean cannot be given by examples, because they cannot adequately represent my relation to what is possible' (Diamond, 1991, p. 69). Of course, none of the aforegoing is to deny processes of cognition, or the reality of representations. There are a whole stock of imagined under- standings, which are shared and drawn upon in any culture (Castoriadis, 1987). It is, rather, to situate these imagined understandings as only a part of a broader process ofknowledging. In other words, representational effort is always firmly embedded in a contextually specific proCess of social negotiation (Curt, 1994).

Take 1: ~But ask

yourselj:inwltat sort of case, in wltat Idnd of

circumstances, do we saYi<"NDW 1 know ltow to go on"1,6

The body is in constant· mo:tion.• Evell·at rest, the body is never still. As bodies move they trace out a path from one location to another. These paths constantly intersect withtllose of others in a complex web of biographies. These others are not just human bodies but also all other objects that can be described as trajectories in time-space: animals, machines, trees, dwellings,and so on. In embryo, this is a description of the time-space demography (or time- geography, as it is more commonly known) of Torsten Hiigerstrand, the Swedish geographer (Hiigerstrand, 1970, 1973, 1982; 1977a, 1977c, 1978a, 1980a). Yet, as a written description, it precisely misses Hiigerstrand's main aim, which was to find a geographical vocabulary that could describe these pre-linguistic movements· pre-linguistically. That was the purpose of his now famous time-space diagrams. He often compared these diagrams to a musical score, which is a similar set of marks of movement, producing



complex existential effects. More than this, Hiigerstrand took

. out that these diagrams, like a musical score, could stand for kind of (non-intellectual) intelligibility.7 more point needs to be made concerning Hiigerstrand's work. That it is inherently dialogical. In opposition to a number of critics in (for example, G. Rose, 1993) who have see~ it as a robus~y (iiallalistic approach, Hiigerstrand clearly saw time-geography m the opposite terms. His stress was constantly on the congruences

'disrpruritillS of meeting and encountering, that is, on the situated inter-

of life. His intent was, in other words, to capture the pragmatic possibility inherent in practical situations of 'going-on'. In

titan implying an idealist framework of intentional. action shaping. ~e totality, it should be evident that Hagerstrand pomted to competitlve and displacement effects which made the total outcome :mything but of intentions .at the level of actors (be they orgamsms, human groups, organisations, or even states). (Carlstein, 1982, p. 61)

[erstra,Ilct':s maps of everyday coping can best be placed, therefore, in .tbiinking which stretches from the early Heidegger and the later through Merleau-Ponty, to, most recently, Bourdieu, de and Shotter, who have tried to conjure up the situated, pre- embodied, states that give intelligibility (but,. not necessarily . hUIDan action - what Heidegger called the primQrdial or pre- Undel:stamding ofthe common world, our ability to make sense Wittl?:lms1:ein kri.ewas the background, whatMerleau-Ponty tbespace of the lived body, or, later,'the flesh" and what by the habitus. Each of these· authors is concerned, in get away from Cartesian intellectualism,with its under- {is a belief system implicit in the minds of individual to all understanding of being as 'the social with which

bytbe mere factgfexlsting and which we carry with us

any objectifications' .(Merleau-Ponty, 1962, p. 362). In 1snot an entity but a way.of being which constitutes a tgr~:emlent in our practices about what entities can show up, and, ~<hum;ansare not entities .but thedeaJring in which entities appear'

1993, p.242). case, what these authors have in common is that they see the prlmaJrily derived in practice:

•••~~~~::~:~ epistemological view, what distinguishes the agent from ~e

can also effect their surroundings is the former's capaClty

Tri,,,nn"'r rep,reSl!ntlltion, whether these are placed in the 'mind' or in the brain a, computer. What we have whi~h inanimate beings. don't J.tave - relllrei~enltations - is identified with representations and the operations we effect To situate our understandings in practices is to see it as implicit in our and hence as going well beyond what we manage to frame represen- tations 'of. We do frame representations: we explicitly formulate what our world





is like, what we aim at, what we are doing. But much of our intelligent action, sensitive as it usually is to our situation and goals, is usually carried on unformulated. It flows from an understanding which is largely inarticulate. (Taylor, 1993a, pp. 49-50)

Thus understanding of the subject in practice is fundamental in two ways. First, this kind of subjectivity is always present. Sometimes we frame representations. Sometimes we do not. But the practical intelligibility is always there. More to the point, and second, the kind of representations we make are only comprehensible against the background provided by this inarticulate understanding. 'Rather than representations being the primary focus of understanding, they are islands in the sea of our unformulated practical grasp of the world' (Taylor, 1993a, p. SO). Yet the articulation of something that is at heart inarticulate remains a constant problem:

There is a real difficulty in finding ordinary language terms to describe the Background: one speaks vaguely of 'practices', 'capacities', or 'stances' or one speaks suggestively but misleading of 'assumptions' and 'predispositions'. These latter terms must be literally wrong, because they imply the apparatus of The fact that we have no natural vocabulary for discussing the phenomenon in .question and the fact that we tend to lapse into an •

',ThelJ) simply is no the. Background is as

invisible to intentionality as the eye which sees is invisible to itself. (Searle, 1983, pp. 156-7)

intentionalistic. vocabul!l1'¥0ughtto~ouse our interest first-order. vocabulary for the Background,. because

Heidegger Was, one mthe nrst philosophers to. take an anti-represen- tationalist view of beipgandsubjectivity as paramount ~nd he h~,of

course,been.highly~~elltialWreyfus,. 1991; Dreyfusatld· Hall,.1992;





.and/ 1fiall(1992) lis~se!eralgen,erations of

thinkers who l1avea~~o\V!edged.aI¥ajor;debt.t() hiswor~, includlllg

Sartre, Merleau-Ponty'nQ~~er,Arendt, Fouc!tult,Bourdie-q,!?errida, Taylor,RortYan.dev~~.H~~~s~liei~egger's widei~-qencec~be

traced to the,fact tPatIfe!4~~ef'4~e~1l~t~oundhisithj~1cipgine"erydaY


bur in~V9l'~g~/~Y:~l1'~jr'p?acli£e;in. what :peoPle d.o,not what

they say

they do'. 9?l'e~l!~~p:dn~,.19p2, :p: 2).Suchll:vlewo{atl



19~.11i).1~ijeiqeg$'~! tojettisQn·.the Carte~iatl

way of thinking()f·.h~~in.g~tcat,i£(}llited.anddiseugaged.~llbjectsW'bo

represent Object:; to tb~~~lves,~dtosettl,e instead, Jorthe\\'9rld~

disclosing function o(!>rac~ceswhiclralwaysass~esabackgr()11ll<lof

implicit familiarity, c:OlllpeJelloo l.lUgcon.t?em .or involvement Thus,


Rather than thinking of action as based· on beliefs anddesire~, Heidegger describes what actually goes on in our everyday skilful coping with things and people and how weare socialised into a shared world. He describes simple skins - hammering, walking mtoa room, using turn signals, etc. -and shows how these everyday coping Skills contain a familiarity with the world that enables us to make sense of things and 'to find [our1 way about in [our) public environment'. Thus, like Ludwig Wittgenstein, Heidegger finds that the only ground for. the intelligibility of thought and action we have or need is in the everyday practices themselves, not in some hidden process of thinking or of history. (Dreyfus and Hall, 1992, p. 2)



involved in these practices are, in their way, remarkable. For Searle (1983, p. ",],43) writes:

ofwhat is necessary to go to the refrigerator and get a bottle of cold beer The biological and cultural resources that I must bring to bear on this to form the intention to perform the task are (considered in a certain starggcmnlg. But without these resources I could not form the intention


opening and closing doors, manipulating bottles, glass,

queuing, partying and drinking.

l~(legger is suggesting is that being-in the-world does not consist of an ego containing a· stream of experiences but is rather an

"IfJ'''~ 'IFf comportment, a skilful coping which consists of a shared deal 'appropriately' with people and things, 'a way of being 9.Qlllcem~i<1 about its own being, and yet must get its meanipg by occupations (including roles and equipment) provided l1e!Q)lteyllUs, 1991, p. 159), where the one is a set of cultural norms on the existence of any particular human being but particular human beings. Clearly, the one is hard to grasp, ~",••""~~",, it clear that it cannot be appropriated as something


;!'qllS,lmeimtng~'glv1ng activity. of an individual human subject; in


FI(~geItal[l spirit that expressesitself in the world, nor

'OpILltanCll,.;:CUlttlraI nO:rmsare not given in such a way that their inte!- . to lucid.abs()lute consci()J;lSness. 'The one is n()t p1\ll'alit}rof sllbjects have hovering lleing is socialised by other . that are not fully available to miSdeScr:iibe(fifw~caIlit inter-subjectivity. (Dreyfus,

d~ver()Prnents ate C9nstaQ.tlYSj:langjng ways.for

uVW~.".'.~~~"".there is :n.() loom fo( ~.indhridualor political

.{o.ae1{~(:'pllew.~:::"~!~~i~~ could then be ~vailabletothe society.

t •

always takes place .on a background of

aecepted-for·the-sake-of-whichsthatcannot all be called into once because they are not presuppositions and in any case must the.:background to lend intemgibility to criticistn and change. (Dreyfus,


Heideggerwas not interested in how his understanding of instantiated or in· how it was passed from one generation to . Following the 'ontictrail' from ontology into the realm of social



and historical structures requires us to move on, specifically to the work of the later Wittgenstein and to Merleau-Ponty. Wittgenstein agreed with Heidegger insofar as he stressed that the source of the intelligence of the world is average public practices:

'So you are saying that human agreement decides what is true and what is false?' - It is what human beings say that is true and false; and they agree in the language they use. That is not agreement in opinions [intentional states] but in form of life (background practices). (Wittgenstein, 1958, no. 241)

But Wittgenstein differed from Heidegger in that he did not believe that the practices that make up a human form of life could be described by an existential analytic of the kind Heidegger devoted much of his life to. For him, practices form an impenetrable thicket which cannot be systematised:

How could human behaviour be described? Surely only by showing the actions of a ,:ariety of humans, as they are all mixed up together. Not what one man [sic1 is domg now, but the whole hurly-burly, is the background against which we see an action, and it determines our judgement, our concepts, and our reactions. (Wittgenstein, 1980, p. 97, no. 509)

However, Wittgenstein produces another orientation to theories of practice in his concentration on the ways of life of different social groups, on the way that these different groups produce different 'pictures', via the 'finitist' doctrine that proper usage is developed step-by-step, in processes involving successions of on-the-spot judgements. 'Every instance of use, or of proper use, of a concept must in the last analysis be accounted for separately by reference to specific, local contingent determinants' (Barnes, 1982, p. 30). What in Heidegger is thinking about practices in Wittgenstein becomes thinking about the 'rough ground' of social practices conceived as forms or patterns of collective life (Wittgenstein, 1958, 1964; Kripke, 1982; Diamond, 1991). Through now famous notions like the language-game

Wittgenstein battled against the . 'discourse of thinking'

relates meanings to words. Wittgenstein insisted that thought is funy

centred in thready, ~otty social interactions (Rubinstein, 1981):

which directly

comes to an end; but the end is not certain presuppositions

striking us immediately as true, i.e. it is not a kind of seeing on our part· it is our acting which lies at the bott{)m of the language-game. (Bloor, 1983, p.' 183)

Merleau-Ponty can also help on this journey from the ontological to the ontic, and especially the later Merleau-Ponty of The Visible and the Invisible (1968). In the earlier Merleau-Ponty, practices are embodied skills that have a common style and can be transposed to various domains. In this point of view, 'existential understanding' (Crossley, 1994) can be found, through the development of a sensuous phenomenology of lived experience, as constructed, as synthetic, as simultaneously active and passive, and as located at the 'mid-point' between mind and body (here Merleau-Ponty prefigures notions of a third space of joint action). Most importantly of all, lived experience is necessarily, ineliminably and ineffably embodied, 'corporeally constituted, located in and as the subject's

Giving ground



fm~ITlnn' (Grosz, 1993, p. 41). This means, first of all, that the human unique in playing a dual role as both the vehicle of perception and perceived, as the body-in-the-world which 'knows' itself by virtue active relation to its world.

does not tend to a state

the body is always active. 'The body

it maintains levels of tension available for efficacious operations' 1994, p. 9). In other words, body sensing is active from the start; it 'hold' of the world; 'the concept is Heideggerian; Merleau~Ponty looking - participating with the eyes - tasting, smelling, and even as variants of handling' (Lingis, 1994, p. 7). Then, third, the body· located in time and space, which are conceived through the body.

body is not a space like things; it inhabits or haunts space. It applies itself to like a hand to an instrument, and when we wish to move about we do not b{)dy, as we move an object. We transport it without instruments is us and because, through it, we have access to space. (Merleau-Ponty, p.S)

.q.oIl~derulg the body in movement, we can see better how it inhabits space because movement is not limited to submitting passively to actually measures them, it takes them up in their basic is obscured in the commonplace of established situations.

'HCl~U~J'Qnl'V. 1962, pp. 100-2)

it is not by means of access to a Cartesian abstract or geometrical knows where to scratch in order to satisfy an itch on one's back.

use an instrument like a stick. From. this point, Merleau-

stick is no .longer an object for me but has been absorbed or

,",~~"",vV"'1' if I

my perceptual faculties or body parts. (Grosz, 1994b, p. 91)

hislast text, The Visible and the Invisible (which might well have The Sensible and the Intelligible), Merleau-Ponty (1968) goes his:introduction of the concept of 'la chair'. flesh. Here, he moves Heideggerian pre-refiective.predicate, a single fabric which refers the flesh of the bod¥ and the flesh of the world:

neither matter nor spirit nor substance, says Merleau-Ponty. The best is with the old concept of 'elements' as applied to earth, air, fire and In something like that sense 'la chair' is an element of being in general. It which makes facts to be facts. It is as if in seeing something, I experience it I myself were visible to it. (Harre, 1991, p. 96)

expand, Merleau-Ponty wants to 'return' to pre-discursive experience, a being', that is unarticulated but not unintelligible:

In returning to a pre-reflective sensible, however, he is not seeking a pure domain uninfluenced by the social: instead his goal is to find precisely the preconditions within sensibility itself, within the subject (as well as the world) that make the



subject open up to be completed by the world, things, others, objects, qualities, interrelations. Neither subject nor object can be conceived as cores, atoms, little nuggets of being, pure presence: not bounded unified entities, they interpretrate, they have a fundamental openness to each other. (Grosz, 1993, p. 43)

Thus the inside and the outside fold back into each other; to see is also the possibility of being seen, to touch is always to be touched, and so on. But

Merleau-Ponty's claim is stronger than that everyone who sees is capable of being

seen (by someone else). His point is ontological: the painter sees trees but the tree also, in some sense, sees the painter. This attribution of visibility to the visible as well as the seen is not an anthropomorphism, but rather a claim about the flesh, about a (non-identical, non-substantive) 'materiality' shared by the subjects and

objects of

The subject and object are inherently open to each

other for they are constituted in the one stroke dividing the flesh into its various modalities. They are interlaced one with the other not externally but through their reversibility and exchangeability, their similarity-in-difference and their difference-in-similarity. Things solicit the flesh just as the flesh beckons to and as an object for things. Perception is the flesh's reversibility, the flesh touching,

seeing, perceiving, itself, one fold (provisionally) catching the other in its self- embrace. (Grosz, 1993, pp. 45-6)

More recent writings make it possible to edge a little further towards social, historical and geographical specificity. The writings I am most concerned to engage with are those of Bourdieu and de Certeau, who both cite Heidegger, Wittgenstein 9 and Merleau-Ponty as major influences 'for a non-intellectuaIist, non-relativistic analysis of the relation between the agent and the world' (Bourdieu, 1990a, p. 10). Bourdieu's notions of field and habitus are crucial to the 'historicist ontology' (Bourdieu, 1993, p. 273) that

he offers. 10

of 'relatively autonomous social microcosms [which are} specific and irreducible' (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992, p. 97). Each of these micrO"- cosms is a network of objective relations between positions based in certain forms of power whose possession commands access to the specific advantages that are at stake in that field (which are defined historically). The field is usually in a state of dynamic tension since the relations between positions, what counts as advantage and even where the borders of the field are drawn are constantly being redefined in struggle by the agents who are situated in it by virtue of a configuration of properties which define their eligibility and therefore their ability to participate. 11 The correlate of the field of objective positions is the structured system of practices and expressions of agents, the 'symbolic stances' that make up what Bourdieu calls the 'habitus'. Whereas the field is the objectified state of historical process, the habitus is the embodied state. They are what Bourdieu, citing Spinoza, calls 'two translations of the same sentence'. Together they are the means by which 'the dead seizes the living' (Bourdieu, 1993). More specifically;

In modem societies, the social cosmos is made up of a number

The concept of habitus refers to an ensemble of schemata of perception, thinking, feeling, evaluating, speaking, and acting - that structures all the expressive,



and practical manifestations and utterances of ~ perso~. ~abi~ has t~ be


of as 'a generative principle of regulated unproVIsations

78) (which are called practice), an in~o~rated ~tructur~formed by the conditions of its genesis. It is 'embodied history, mternallsed ~ a.s~nd Bourdieu says 'the active presence of the whole past of which it is the [1990a, p. 56]. By contrast with the familiar sociological concept of ~ole, refers to something incorporated, not to a set of norms or expectations

independently of and externally to ~e ~ge~t. Likewise, as of the living organism, thus functionmg m the way of

refers to a generative principle, not to a set of fixed and finite rules.

1993, pp. 169-70)

i~ i~ thought to hvmg. systems,

words, the habitus is a kind of 'embodied unconscious' which

it possible to inhabit institutions, t? appropriate them practically, and so them in activity, continuously pulling them fro~ili:e sta~of dead l~t~ers, the sense deposited in them, but at the same time 1mposmg the reVISIOns .trllmsfomlati.ons that realisation entails. (Dourdieu, 1990a, p. 57)

and field are obviously intimately related to one another:

reacts to the solicitations of the field in a roughly.coherent and sy.ste~tic As the collective individuated through embodiment or ~ blo~og1c:u '(;ollectivised' by socialisation, habitus is action to the mtention m .

Searle or to the 'deep struct~'ofChomsky ~cept t,hat,.instead of

anthropological invariant, this deep s~ture IS a ~tonc~y co~-

intIinsiicaEly grounded, and thus socially varlll;ble ~n~tive matriX:. It 18

practical rationality, unman~nt. t.n an

of social relations and therefore transcendent to the mdiVIdual. 1114JW1!;~ are systematic, yet ad hoc because they are 'triggered' with a particularfteld. Habitus ~creatiye, inve!ltive, but wiili:in structures,.which are the embodied sedimentation of the SOClal produced it. (Dourdieu and Wacquant, 1992,pp. 18-19)

rationality, but of a

there is 'an ontological complicity between habitus and the (Bourdieu, 1990a, p. 194). Or, as Dre?,us and R~bino~.(1993, it even more succinctly, 'our socially mculcated dispoSItiOnS to world solicit action, and our actions are a response to this

IS clearly interested in framing the encounter between practices It is left to de Certeau (1984, 1986) to frame the encounter pntctices and geography. It is too rarely noted that de Certeau criticailly on Bourdieu,and the terms of his critique were explicitly de Certeau praised Bourdieu's ethnological work on the tactical practices of the Kabyle and the Bearnais but he was find the same kind of subtlety in Bourdieu's work closer to home


French educational system. As both Lave and Wenger

(1991~ and


(1985) also

point out, in this work,. the subtle e~ergIes of

are absorbed in a complex but still recogmsable regulation model confuses 'the ideology of his own milieu with its practices' (Herzfeld,

p. 83). For de Certeau (1984, p. 5~), Bourdi~u ex~ngui.shestactic~'

certifying their amenability to .SOClo-econOmlC ratIonality

as If



to mourn their death by declaring them unconscious'. Perhaps this is because of Bourdieu's need for an

other (Kabylian or Bearnian) which furnishes the element that the theory needs to work and 'to explain everything'. This remote foreign element has all the c~~ri.stics that ~efine the habitus: coherence, stability, unconsciousness, It IS repres~nted by the habitus where, as in the Kabylian dwellmg, the structures are mverted as they are interiorised, and where the writing flips over again in exteriorising itself in the form of practices that have the deceptive appearance of being free improvisations. (de Certeau, 1984, p. 58)

De Certeau's answer to this occidentalist dilemma is interesting. It is to concentrate on the importance of tactics by exploring the importance of space. De Certeau tries to surmount the problem of Bourdieu's implicit denigration of the tactical properties of practices by exploring how space

constitutin~ tactics and in forming the. other. Thu~, 'a

tactic msmuates mto the other s place, fragmentarily, without taking it over in its enti.t"ety, without being able to keep it at a distance' (de Certeau, 1984, p. XIX). For de Certeau practices are always spatial-symbolic practices which can be dis~overed via spatial~symbolic metaphors like walking, pathways and the Clty. Through the movements of the body and the powers

inte~~ne~ both ~

.of speech the. subject (nnw a walker) can jointly produce the possibility of converting one spatial signifier into ;an.other. New places and meanings,

'acts and f.ootsteps', produce;

'meanings and directions' are produced andfuey


~unctionof~rticulatinga second poetic geography on top ofthe geography of the

literal, forbl(l~en?rpennitted meaning. They insinuate other routes into the functionalist an4 historicah}tderOf movement. (de Certeau, 1984, p.lO'S)


liberated spaCeS thatcanbeocCupied. A n:chindeternrlnationgivesthem

Space interveJIesinario:tl1er~aytoQ,·inthe productl.onof narrativities de Certeau:

Narrative structures have}he status; of spatial syntaxes. By means ofawhole panoply .ofcodes, orderet:i:waysofproceeding and constraints, theyregulat;:l

changes mspaC(! ()£1ll9}!~s:fr.oIn.<>n~;~lacet()another) mad.e by stories in the

,:Morethan that, when they

are represented mdescnptxon~orll:ctedoutbyactors(Ii foreigner, or city dweller,

form ofplaces .eutinli~~~.g:;in~t;rt:'(ll~s;eries

~ ghos.t~ ~ese plac~ar~~ed tog-ether m~re or. less· tightly or easily. by

modalities that.speC1fy the 1QndQfcpassageJeadmg from the one to the other

Ev~ry story isatravcl<story


a spatial practice. For this reason, spatial

pra~ti~s co~cem every~ay~:tics,>al'epart of them, f(om the alphabet of spatial m~ca~on ~Its to the nght,take a teft'),the beginning of a story the rest of whic~.IS wntten by footsteps, to the daily news ('guess who I met at the bakery'), teleViSion news reports (Teheran: Khomeni: isbecoIning increasingly isolated)

legen~ (Cindere~as living in hovels) and stories that are

functions of foreIgn lands or more or less distant times in the past). These ~arratedadventures simultaneously producing geographies of actions and drifting

mto th~ commo~pl~ces of an orde:, do not merely constitute a 'supplement' to pedestrian enuncla~ons and :hetoncs. They are not satisfied with displacing the latter and transposmg them mto the field of language. In reality, they organise

told (memories and



They make the journey before or during the time the feet perform it. (de 1984,pp. 115-16)

latter parts of his career, de Certeau explained these spatial stories as constituent of the other, specifically through the construction of of Empire and colonisation (de Certeau, 1991).

Further Down the Ontic Trail

expositiQn of the work of Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Merleau- '(~.Bollll'dlieu and de Certeau has allowed me tQ consider the main of practices. It has also allowed me to travel some way down the towards social, historical and geographical particularity. Now I both fill in some more of the details in theories of practice and, at

time, travel still further down the ontic trail, through an appeal to dH'fefient sets of literatures concerned with, respectively, the conver- of practices, the conundrum of subjectivity and the deploy-

•• In so doing, I also want to face up to the kind of criticism



Qy,"l, (1994b) and like-Ininded authors, that a framewQrk built of. Heidegger and the· four other theorists we have far is incapable of 'supposing' a subject, by actively their w9rk can be extended. in precisely this direction without tnost important insights. these. lit~ratures.is .:concerned .with the nature. of practices .of theexpon~nts.of theories of practice so far addressed, reltso,ns. tetidst()]eavetheex:actways in which practices are abeyance. 12 Forexan;tPle, tlte fast anel often un- jn~r!actl01Jtaltoalldfro of everyday. life is Inissing,concepts of


"artd ne:rs()Uailii'fI tend t() liedortI1!l:nt, certain issues .concerning

. of socialisation .of the child get

least start t() bel.'edressed through an tnC~.·.1'IIOl'1tn Amerfcan. pragmat4; trailitiQn, which begins with the

interested iIl.the()rieg .of practice

thistradition;!\1ead was, of course,. a .temarkably

who, fromthestart,.was intent on avoiding the demar-

?(j:tSOC:lal a.nd per.sonal regions, Thus,. in his account .of language and thought and self-awareness arose from interpersonal Initially this means communicatiQnby gesture. 13 Later, other language emerge. The inner conversation which we denote as talcegon an impersonal fonn, because the conversation in .our longer with actual persons but with a 'generalised .other'; the and morals .of the social group which are embodied in discourse. In words, the 'inner' organisation of the self 'rests on the dialectical 'inl:e.rc:ha:nge with everything outside that is outside it: that is to say: its as it is mediated furough social activity and COIBmlrmic:atic.n' (Burkitt, 1991, p. 48):




+h; v"

and COIBmlrmic:atic.n' (Burkitt, 1991, p. 48): Mead NoonewhQis "'1"'''<0 +h; v"



from this standpoint, perfect individuality or a fully developed personality, instead of being something given and simply to be recognised, is the result of deep and profound consciousness of the actual social relations. Furthermore, as a prerequisite of this consciousness, we imply the formation of the most extensive and essential social relationships whose control must lie within themselves and in their interaction upon each other, rather than in any internal judgement. Froin this standpoint personality is an achievement rather than a given fact. (Mead, cited in Burkitt, 1991, p. 48)

It is also clear from the quotation that, for Mead, 'extensive and essential social relationships' refer to pre-conscious patterns of conduct which are necessary to the entire economy of conduct, and 'this is similar to Heidegger's notion of being-in-the-world, where the future of objects is constructed by habitual everyday activity in the material world, and the meaning that objects have for us is the part that they play in that habitual activity' (Burkitt, 1991, p. 49). Mead's work was chiefly taken up in sociology, where it became incorporated into the symbolic interactionism of Blumer and others (for accounts, see Alexander, 1989; Denzin,1992) as a 'down-to-earth' approach to the study of human group life and human conduct resting on three main assumptions: first, that.'human beings acttowards things on the basis ofthe meanings that the things have for them' (Blumer, 1969, p. 2); second, that meanings arise out ofthe process of social interaction; and, third,that meanings are modelled through an interpretive process which involves self-

reflective individuals who symbolically interact ·with each other

appealing. to these assUlllptio,ns, symbolic interactionismdearly tended

towards an individualjsfa~4r~resentationalistvie\V; However,



of itsscionsis~tillj9.s~ctive for theories of practice, and can be


intheirtepn~'Jip.:P~cular,there is theworkoLGarfinkel and

Goffman. Garfink.el·s'ethno~e!ho~ology' (Heritage, ·1984) is an approach which shows the stutf~~c~O~!til9rd~raspeople'sfamiliar,everydayactions, arising out ofthe 'loc~·lo~~'col1Dectedwith concrete social situations. But these actions areachie~e4~ 'Y:~ys\Vhic~are artfrilaswellcastaken-for-

granted. To accom:plish~em.i~~rlG~~stconstantlyutilisewen~knownand

well-used procedur~sor~ocI?~cfea(i¥gl.f, or, as it is often and famously phrased, 'for anoth~rfuSttiUl.e';l!1.'ll.isej?roceduresarethe folk -:-.or'ethno'

- methods which we tnU~ttr:Y~ound~~tand if we are to make everyday

actions intelligible. In otherwofds;Gar1ilik:el was concerned to produce an

analysis of social phenomenawhlchreeognlsed thelllas

the managed accomplishment of organised Sl:ttings of practical actions, and that

particular determinations in members'

relevance, or reproducibility of their practices and results -

topology - are accompanied and assured· only through organisations of artful practices. (Garfinkel, 1961, p. 32)

practices of consistency, ·thankfulness,

from witchcraft to particular, located

By the same token, Garfinkel goes on:

it is not satisfactory to describe how actual investigative practices, as constitutive features of members' ordering and organised affairs, are accomplished by



as recognisably rational actions in actual occasions of organisational by saying that members invoke some rule with w~ch to de~e. ~e or consistent or planful, i.e. rational, character of theIr actual actiVlties. 1967, p. 32)

policy is to refuse serious consideration to the prevailing propos:u tfat efficacy, effectiveness, intelligibility, consistency, planfulness, typICal~ty, replicability of activities - i.e. that rational properties of practical

- be assessed, recognised, categorised, described by using a rule "or obtained outside actual settings within which such properties are used, produced and talked about by settings' members. (Garfinkel,


.palrticula.rly, Garfinkel attached importance to the accountable social action as a reflexive, inferential and inevitably ethical

. involve moral intuition) product of the interpretation of 'by his [sic}· accounting practices the member makes )DllnOlllpl:ace activities of everyday life recognisable as familiar, activities' (Garfinkel, 1961, p; 9); In other words, social tfl,rough their own actions, unavoidably engaged in produci,ng the intelligible character •of their ow,ncircumstances by ~•. J1rra()tiClally adequate sihlations (in contrast to the standard of situations as stable objects o(consensual identification);

l~sjrn.tflres:t.isin descriptive accounts and accountings as data which ate to

the empiri:ru

'eXternal to SOCIal

see ·howtheyorgamse;candare organised: by


betre2~tedt.assul}jec:po me :SWIle.r<l;ll~e"Ucircumstantial


describe. In this .their 'fit' to



of unstated

the serL~cJf~n.al;:c::ountishl~avily~dep,en(len~0nthe context of

indl:xical.(.l:Jtq'ldtt, 1991, p. 56)

designttd with reference to

otEfec:ogJtUs(ld and(descnbed,aDd on lallguageas.language-m- ".:'l~··:fl'iilntlf;;n the work •of Goffmarl.; Here I :ao not want to

·GI~ffilliari's dramaturgiCal modelsofitnpressionmanage-

hfs;Hite.rwerkorimic:r()~sooial interaction, where, as he put it,


gets done'. Mostparticuiarly, in thlslater work, lIl.terestedin recognising the rhetorical character of talk. For 'thlking is not experiencing or perceiving, the objects and aroUnd us, but doing: Talk is performance, a form of acting on

. with what is, and with what is going on around us' (Burns, But talk is not just performance:

it is true that utterances are performative and convey commitment to prc,mises, or assent, dissent, caution and much else, a good deal of the ,in;wtiich perf{)rmative utterances are conveyed is only indirectly connected



with the performative content; indeed, this may be a minor feature. (Burns, 1992,



What the individual spends most of his [sic] time doing is providing evidence for the fairness or unfairness of his current situation and other grounds for sympathy, approval, exoneration, understanding, or amusement. And what his listeners are obliged to do is to show some kind of audience appreciation. (Goffman, 1974, p. 503)

These kinds of concerns with accounts and the rhetorical properties of talk have been taken up again more recently in the conversational models of human conduct pursued by Harre and Shotter. For both Harre and Shotter reality is 'conversational':

The fundamental human reality is a conversation, effectively without beginning or end, to which, from time to time, individuals may make contributions. All that is personal in our mental and emotional lives is individually appropriated from the conversation going on around us and perhaps idiosyncratically transformed. The state of our thinking and feeling will reflect, in various ways, the form and content of that conversation. (Harre, 1983, p. 20)

It is possible to argue with Harr6'sapproach to the conversational reality with its rather odd distinction between a practical and expressive order, and its tendency to neo-Kantianism.Therefore, I will concentrate on the work of Shotter (1984, 1985a, 1985b, 1993a, 1993b; see also Shotter and Gergen, 1994), which mixes Harre with Vico, Wittgenstein, Vygotsky and Bakhtin to produce an intriguing conversational version of social constructionism which fits with the main tenets oftheories of practice in its attempt to move 'beyond representationalism'.•Shotter's work on conversation (understood as everyday practical ta1k)d~pendson four main principles. First, and most importantly, itconcentra,tes on the third space 'between' the individual psyche and the abstract systems or principles which supposedly characterise the exterual world. 15 Thisisth~space of everyday social life, a flow of responsive and relational··aCtivities tlIat. are joint, practical-moral and situated in character andcoIlstitute anew understanding 'ofthethird kind'. This is the space of 'jointaption' in which 'all the other socially significant dimensions of interpersonal interactIon, with their associated modes of subjective or objective being,. originate and are formed' (Shotter, 1993b,p. 7). It is, in effect, Wittg~nstein's,background foregrounded. Second, Shotter's workassigus a crucial role to the nse of language, not as a communicative device for transmitting messages from the psyche or social structure, but as a rhetorical-responsive means of moving people or changing their perceptions. Thus in this rhetorical-responsive version of social constructionism the account of language that is offered is 'sensuous' - language is a communicational, conversational, dialogical and persuasive means of responding to others (and 'ourselves'):

all of what we might call the person-world, referential-representational, dimen- sions of interaction at the moment available to us as individuals - all the familiar



ways we have of talking about ourselves, about our w~rld(s), and abo:ut their possible relationships which in the past we have tak~n as In some ~ay pnmary - we now claim must be seen as secondary and denved, as emerging out of the everyday, conversational background to our lives. (Shotter, 1993b, p. 8)

and third, Shotter is clearly committed to a highly situated view of <n!l,lIIl,an life and language use. Situations 'exist as third entities, between us the others around us' (Shotter, 1993b, p. 9). In turn, such a view of situations produces an orientation to the other, is necessarily ethical:

us as individuals,

situations may seem like one or another kind of


'.'" ---

However, such situations are not external to 'us' as a social

As neither 'mine' nor 'yours', they constitute an Otherness. And it is from this Otherness that we must distinguish, slowly and gradually, between

is due to our relations to each other, and that which is not - the task

distinJ~!;hilrg what is dependent upon factors of our talk from what is jnde:pclldeltlt of This will be a difficult and politically contested task; but it is until now, it is a task that has been ignored. (Shotter, 1993b, p. 9)



t'Aelref()re, fourth and finally, in Shotter's rhetorical-responsive account a emphasis is placed on self-other relationships:

constructionists are concerned with how, without a conscious grasp of the pr(JctlI!Ses involved in doing so in living out different, particular forms of self- ~rl:elatiOlllships,we unthlnldngly construct different, particular forms of :nn;-w'~rll'l relatic)nship's: the special ways in •. which, as scientists, say, we different worlds of only theoretically defined entities, the routine ordinary persons we fun~tionin the different realities we occupy ~tfrev(~rYlday sociaI lives; as well as the extraordinary ways in which we act, ,(Shatter, 1993a, p. 12)

A~seCon(Ui'tenltUl:e.lwanttoa.ppealtois c~)1lcerrl.e4with filling out the

Lhaveoutlinedsofar suggests something not the classical poststructurali.st decentred subject; this is as I should be (1991b). B,ll! I also believe that the subject is psychically in various ways: by narrative surely,as Freud and de Certeau by the recording of early pre-discursive experiences of the iiecltcertainly(Winnicott, 1974, 1975; Bollas, 1987; Rustin, 1991); by the :5r.dr:e,ren -Ihave not entirely given upon Uu::an! ,But most importantly

there is the primary unconscious imaginary, defined as <the key

?riiQvi'ihlcal mechanism through which human beings establish an imaginary t~llationwith the self,others, received social meanings, and society' (Elliott, p. 4). Here I want to draw on the work of Castoriadis (I9~4, 1987, 1991b). Castoriadis's work is, without doubt, exceptional: as Lecercle (1993, p. 58) puts it, 'he was so obvionsly right forty years before everybody else. More importantly, he is the only living incarnation of two figures who ought to be close to our hearts: the philosopher-c~-psych?­ analyst who manages to articulate Freud and ~aI?'.'.But this may sti? seem a rather odd choice. After all, Castonadis IS known for his



commitment to a human psyche which produces representation; and to an actual faculty of signification:

the imaginary ultimately stems from the ongoing positioning or presenting oneself with things and relations which do not exist, in the form of representations (things and relations that are not or have never been given in perception). We shall speak of a final or radical imaginary as the common root of the actual imaginary and of the symbolic. This is, finally, the elementary and irreducible capacity of evolving images. (Castoriadis, 1987, p. 127)

But what Castoriadis means by 'representation' is actually quite specific; and has very little to do with most definitions of representation; especially those definitions that are based on notions of the reflection of a 'real world':

Those who speak of 'imaginary' understanding by this the specular, the reflection of the 'fictive', do no more than repeat, nsually without realising it, the affirmation which has for all time chained them to the underground of the famous cave: it is necessary. that this would be an image of something. The imaging of which I am speaking is not an image of. It is the unceasing and essentially undetermined (social historical and psychical) creation of figures! forms/images, on the basis of which alone there can ever be a question of

something. What we call 'reality' and 'rationality' are its works 1987, p. 3)


It clearly follows that:

The term 'representatiott,. as m;ed byCastoriadis, does not denote some organic bond between imagesand.things, ideas and the. object wQrld.Jlather, the nature of representation for Castorilldis is anchored firmly in'Qo<lily. re~, lit by the moment of creation exnihilobetweenthe~t ofthedt'ivean4;t4e.individual's unique mode of being. 'The indivIdual'. writes Castoriadis'isl3otjH§.t ~fust concentration of representations - or oetter,a first "total representation" - he [sic] is also, abQve all, a~~eSSe~et~ence

of~r.eselltlltion~ atl~tl1e~que mode in which this repre~ta~oIlfflqxexists.' Unoonsciousrepr~nta;tion,then,

is a finite'-'infinite'flux':i.1;isindefinjfufuform, and is indilIerentt(lthe rUles of ordinary iogic.(Elliott; 19.!t2;p~2&)


For Castoriadis•. the~ ~eP~~~lli~#911.is;~cteative and ~nstitutivefe:ature

ofsodal experience.in:t~:nR~l!i<!:nd,1l:ff~pt{In.tlfeguiseofthe (primary.and

unconsdous) imagitl~iit~i~;\lt~;rn~e¥etl1ywenceoft~se:representations,

drives. and affects ;(oriWny.~itJcV~~~(!~),;tunJlerstooaasan.inlaglllary

dimension of s\TbjectivitYi>~(}'diw:e~si~llcthrough.wllichbuman beings create themselvesanewan.g.;tb.~.pglitigf1lshape of their sodety' .(Elliott, 1992, p. 4), by 'openingo!lt'to

self-identity, others, reason, society,atldpoliticalengagement. Thus, the decisive grip the imaginary holds on the symbolic can be understood on the basis of the following consideration: symbolism assumes the capacity ofp6sitioning a permanent connection between two themes in such a way that one 'represents' the other. It is only at very advanced stages in lucid rational thinking that these three elements (the signifier, the signified and their sui generis tie) are maintained as simultaneously united and disjoint in a r.elation that is at once firm and flexible. (Castoriadis, 1987, p. 127)



The third literature to which I want to make an appeal is concerned with the issue of how power is constructed, enacted and exerted. Theories of practice have undoubtedly tended to avoid this issue; in a world of violence, oppression and cruelty they too often tend to the anaemic. The of Bourdieu on the social field and habitus and on what he calls /s,vmboJlic violence' and the writings of de Certeau on the interplay between of the powerful and the tactics of the weak have clearly begun address the issue of agonistically constructed power more forcefully, but am going to consider power instead through the body of work known as actor-ne~twork theory, 16 or sometimes the sociology of 'translation', where . tran!;lation is defined as 'the mechanism by which the social and natural progressively take form' (Callon, 1986, p. 224; 1991; Latour, 1986, 1991, 1993; Law, 1991, 1994). A(~tOjr.;.netvvol~k theory is not, of course, only concerned with how power 'lSCOllStJ:uct:ea. It also, and rather usefully, fills in other lacunae in theories :~.pl:ac1ice;s; of which five are particularly noteworthy. First, it provides a of understanding how everyday practices are transmitted into wider moo~ss(~S of .YociaI formation, but without falling back on either an all-

:el'lCOtnp:ass'ing theoretical order of the kind that is so deeply suspect or a ·.(~O:pl:Iis1tiC~lte1d) restatement of the problem, as in Giddens's notions of time-







w: social and systemintegration. Second, it points to

llil~:;j7av in· which··social· agency is •constructed in these . social processes,

ratlb.er4hanbeltng assumed to be: aprop\}rty of them. Third, it identifies the of construction as one that requiresc constant effort, and is always «,rlms,f.er. actor'"l1etw.ork th~oryrecognises the



1n1lest,edshnplytQkeepl1etworkst()gether -as any

withitsyastlists()rre~a.iJ,'ersishows Actor-


rk tl1j~()ry:.3'ls(J,·re:Coigt1is:es·the;'ln:y1ofiatlceofmistakes,and as creative


)nS belcause ofits·catho.1.icview of what can eountasactors Then.

UldcfilruU[y,.itdelnOltlSfll'at(~slllO~'!l"eality is ·.co~tructed.through pro'~

of tr31l1s1:ation, as:soc:iation andalli~Ce.\vhich.strengthen particular


on~rla(:C(Jun1ts.dfpractices. atitheexpense .ofothers;

negative 1ll0m~n.ts,t·Follrth,itproblematisessubject

reality . and '.truth;like·buildirigafreewayor.asuper-computer, recQgnisedas:intricafely;otgamsed. soci(;Fpoliticalprooosses' (Ward, I!;I~''k,n. 89}.Let me now expand on these points; ~eory. uses the. 'topological presupposition' (Mol and the. network toeonsider how social agency is constructed. T~leji}loodlme of actor-network theoryispoststructuralism (and especially by symbolic interactionism out of network philosophies of

sdeilce. As Law (1994, p.lS) has it:

The provenance of actor-network theory lies in poststructuralism: the vision is of many semiotic systems, many orderings, jostling together to genera~ the soc~al. On .the other hand actor~network theory is moreconcemed Wlth changmg recursive processes than is usual in writing influenced by structuralism. It tends to



tell stories, stories that have to do with the processes of ordering that generate effects such as technologies, stories about how actor-networks elaborate themselves, and stories which erode the analytical status of the distinction between the macro- and micro-social.

Actor-network theory has three main characteristics. First, agents - which can vary in size from individual human subjects to the largest organisations - are treated as relational effects. Second, however, agents are not unified effects. They are contingent achievements. Many of the stories of actor- network theorists recount 'how it is that agents more or less, and for a period only, manage to constitute themselves. Agency, if it is anything, is a precarious achievement' (Law, 1994, p. 101). Third, the social world is conceived of as fragmentary. It is a set of more or less related bits and pieces which are the result of endless attempts at producing networks some of which are currently relatively successful, some of which are currently the social equivalent of the faded silk flowers in the attic. The 'social' is the outcome of this 'recursive but incomplete performance of an unfiavourable number of intertwined orderings' (Law, 1994, p. 101). Thus in actor- network theory 'modes of production', 'structures', 'classes', 'interests', and th~!ike, are not treated as the carriers of events but rather as a set of effects ansmg from a whole complex of network relations: 'translation is a process before it is a result' (Callon, 1986, p. 224). It is often written that actor-network theory is an attempt to combine the insight of economics, that it is things that draw actors in relationships, with the insight of sociology, that actors come to define themselves, and others, through interactions. Thus, 'actors define one another in interaction - in the intermediaries that they put into circulation' (CalIon, 1991, p. 135). These intermediaries - usually considered to be texts, technical artefacts human beings and money - allow networks to come into being by givi~gsocial links shape and consistency and therefore some degree of longevity and

size. But they are not passive


.For example, texts and technical

artefacts can clearly define the role played by others in the network - both humans and non-humans. In other words, the 'material' and the 'social' intertwine and interact in· all m.anner of promiscuous combinations. A network is, therefore, defined by>the actors and by the circulation of intermediaries in interaction. But that still leaves open the question of how networks are established and stabilised. Murdoch (1995, pp. 747-8) provides the best explanation of this process:

In order for ~ actor t? successfully enrol en~ties(human and non~human)within a network theIr behaVIOur must be standardIsed and channelled in the directions desired by the enrolling actor. This will entail redefining the roles of the actors :m d ~t,ltities as ~ey co~e.into alignment, such that they come to gain new Identities or attnbutes Within the network. It is the intennediaries which act to bind actors together, 'cementing' the links. When there is a perfect translation or redefinition, of actors' identities and behaviours, then these are stabilised within the network. The stronger the network, the more tightly the various entities (human and non-human) are tied in. Despite their heterogeneity they work in unison. Each actor is able to 'speak for all, and to mobilise all the skills and



alliances within the network' (Callon, 1991, p. 151). The more stable the network, the more irreversible the translations. The links and relationships would be predictable, standardised; the network would be 'heavy with nonns' (CalIon, 1991, p. 151). However the 'power' of the intennediaries may be curtailed by actors modifying or appropriating them in accordance with their own projects. When the translation process has been weakly executed, the enrolling actors find their states continually in question and find it hard to mobilise other parts of the network. Thus successful or strong networks might be considered to be those where the processes of translation have been effectively executed, allowing the enrolling actor to consolidate the network on its own tenns.

successful, strong networks will clearly often involve action at a . ;.Ul'~ULJ~\N and this kind of action is in itself an achievement, one that can only be guaranteed by socio-technical innovations which circulate ~!~terme:dUln€:S - from postal systems to long-distance navigation to modern i¢~lml:)U1:erised telecommunications. In other words, in actor-network theory, is an ongoing and transient achievement and the world is one in 'actors have only relative size and are fighting hard to vary the size everyone else' (Latour, 1988, p. 174). Such an account of the struggle to achieve scale leads easily on to the of power (Law, 1991). In actor-network theory, power is con- of as the continuous outcome of the strength of the associations 'ijetwl~ actors and 'understanding what sociologists generally call power means describing the way in which actors are defined, lS~<J,ciated and simultaneously obliged to remain faithful to their alliances'.

:l&'S"i.lL"'U, 1986, p. 224). As Murdoch (1995, p. 748) again puts it

stronger the network the more powerful the translating actor. Thus, those powerful are not those who 'hold'power but are those able to enrol,


i+<to;'repre8l:nt' these others. Powerful actors 'speak for' all the enrolled entities and


if"COl1Wlce anden1ist others into networks on tennswhich allow the initial

control· the means of representation (they 'speak for the others

::c"n"'v",'n,,,~,n deprived of ·a voice, that have beentransforn'led from· objects that

themselves into new shadows of their fonner selves' (Law and

~S.\VIlittak€:r, 1988,p, 79)). The controlling actor grows by borrowing the force of

PoWer is, therefore, the composition of

inflate to a larger size•

WW t}le:netwc)rk: if it lies anywhere it is in the resources used to strengthen the bonds.

;.mms,'a(:to:r-uetvl'oI·k theory, as·a sociology of ordering rather than order. is, :;.<1:t:~v4:s.LinitsJaterforms, 'all abontdistribntion, unfairness and pain' (Law, p~ 134). But,most importantly of all, it is about how these are done

C>il'toDrac:Uce. So.

the SOCiology of order complains that inequality is absent what I now hear iSa different kind of complaint: an objection to the fact that the sociologies of ordering (like actor-network theory) do not buy into a reductionist commitment to some final version of order; that they are not, for instance, committed to a particular theory of class or gender exploitation; that they refuse to adopt what some feministscaII a 'standpoint epistemology'; that their materialism is relational rather than dualist; that there is no a priori distinction between the macro-social and the micro-social. These complaints are right but I don't believe that they are justified. For ordering sociologies, whether legislative or interpret- ative, prefer to explore how hierarchies come to be told, embodied, perfonned



and resisted. But to choose to look at hierarchy in this way is neither to ignore it, nor to deny it. Rather it is to tell stories about its mechanics, about its instances, about how we all do it, day by day. (Law, 1994, p. 134)

Clearly, activating networks of actors, and therefore agency, requires mobilisation of all manner of things and this is probably where actor- network theory makes its most original contributions (1994g). In actor- network theory things other than human agency are given their due, with

two main results. First, and as a matter of principle, actor-network theory

recognises networks as collectivities

contribute in their way to the achievement (and attribution) of agency. fn other words, actor-network theorists argue for a 'symmetrical anthro- pology,17 which is more likely to recognise (and value) the contribution of the non-human by shifting our cultural classification of entities. Latour (1993, p. 67) goes so far as to argue for the necessity of a new constitution which will complete 'the impossible project undertaken by Heidegger', both by correcting Heidegger's archaic bias, and also by restoring the part of the 'anthropological matrix' which has been lost. Thus, says Latour (1993, p.

of all manner of objects which al,!


All collectives are different from one another in the way they divide up beings, in the properties they attribute to them, in the mobilisation they consider accept- able. These differences constitute countless small divides, and there is no longer a great divide to tell them apart from all the others. Among these small, small divides, there is one that we are now capable of recognising as such, one that has distinguished the official version of certain segments of certain collectivities for three centuries. This is our Constitution, which attributes the role of non-humans to one set of entities, the role of citizens to another, the function of an arbitrary and powerless God to a third, and. cuts off the work of mediation from that of purification.

It is this constitution that Latour wants to say farewell to. He wants a new constitution that recognises hybrid, or variable, geometry entities, which restores 'the shape of things', and which redefines the human as 'mediator' or 'weaver'. Second, andfollowing()n from the latter point, because things are so intimately bound up;in the production of networks that will last and spread, actor-network theory conjures up the idea of a world where 'the human' must be redefinedashighlydecentred(or as reaching farther) and as unable to be placed in opposition to thellon-human: 'The human is not a constitutional pole to be opposed to that of the non-human' (Latour, 1993, p. 137). Thus some of our most cherished dualities - like nature and society - fall away to be replaced by new hybrid representations and new ethical considerations:

the human is in the delegation itself, in the pass, in the sending, in the continuous exchange of forms. Of course, it is not a thing, but things are not things either. Of course it is not a merchandise, but merchandise is not merchandise either. Of course, it is not a machine, but anyone who has seen machines knows they are scarcely mechanical. Of course, it is not in God, but what relation is there

between the God above and the God below

Human nature is the set of its



delegates and its representatives, its figures and its messengers. (Latour, 1993, p.


Finally the mention of the influence of poststructuralism on actor- "ne:tw4l)rk theory allows me to comment briefly on this ~ea of theoreti~al in relation to theories of practice. In part, I do this because theones practice share some of the same theoretical forebears - Heidegger being m:rh~lps the most obvious (though read in a different way). In part, I do it it allows me to make clear where theories of practice ·differ not from conventional sociologies of order but also from certain post- . stnlctluralis1 readings. And, in part, I do it because I also want to identify fonns of poststructuralist work which are, I believe, quite close to i.~f:JllleOl].es of practice I have been expounding, and can add significantly




possible to identify two different schools at work in poststructuralist (Shotter, 1993a). One of these we might call the 'represe~tation~­ ferentilu' strand. Primarily influenced by the work of Saussure, It consIsts works of writers like Derrida and Lyotard who look on language as in tenns of already existing, decontextualised systems of conven- meanings of usages, characterised either by systems of or in tenns of rule-governed language games' (Shotter, 1993b, In other words they focus on 'already spoken words'. Shotter claims that this strand of work is still tainted by the 'systematic of the Enlightenment. I think that it is hard to disagree with this In particular,. Shotter and· others have pointed tathe warning work; a certaininher~ntrepresentationalism, a certain idea of a account that can speak ahead of time, the over-valuing of the the systematic linguistic Ionn, the retention of a privileged for theilltellectual OOt now as the interpreter ofanaIytical language as signalled by, for example,'Derrida's continued allegiance to values of theory,rigor, sys~em, precision and control' (Wood, Z87),and soon. One C;<ll111otnelp butsuspectthllt !fie continuing lllllitll:llent ~f Writers like])epida and Lyotard to the register of theory their sQCialinvestments in a very specific practical world;


the Second World War there has been a vast proliferation of academic

such thatthe.academicrealmhascbecome far larger than any individual

;.;,.PAl1'·in''RSD in their lifetime; thus. for all. practical purposes, aca?e~a ~ b~me ·, ••'!-U.JifUill'" semantic universe. Growth has altered the people Wlthin this unIverse; Wittgenstein never read other philosophers ,as ili.e~said no~g to ~ Derrida writes only by commenting on other people s wntings. Dem~ works m a textual arena comp-osed of philosophy, literature and the arts, and IS not often called upon to think about how words and things relate. (Gosden, 1994, p. 60)

' ,n"y,

As I hope I have made clear, this first strand of thought is a long, long way from· the kind of modest account I want to offer of a world of inherently diaIcgicaI joint action, a 'spontaneous, unself-conscious, unknowing (although not unknowledgeable) kind of activity' (Shotter, 1993a, p. 47).



But there is a second non-representational-practical strand of post- structnralist work, represented by writers like Foucault and Deleuze and Guattari. I do not want to take up Foucault's banner: enough has been

written about his work already and, in fact, I have severe problems with some of it (including the incompatibility of his conceptions of individuality and subjectivity, his over-emphasis on the discursive production of humans by language at the expense of the practical production of language by humans, the outdatedness of his analysis of biopolitics,18 the implicit Eurocentrism, identified by Bhabha [1994] and others, and so on). Instead I want to concentrate on the work of that dissident poststructnralist Gilles Deleuze (and Felix Guattari). In part, I want to do this because the kind of vivid, moving, contingent and open-ended thaumaturgy that Deleuze conjures up others seems to be not so very far from the vision offered by

some other theorists

clearly heard here:


of practice. For example, the echoes of Latour can be

the Deleuzian framework insists on the flattening out of relations between the social and psychical so that there is neither a relation of causation (one- or two- way) nor hiera~chies, levels, grounds, or foundations. The social is not privileged over the psychical (as crude Marxism entails); nor is the psychical privileged at the expense of the social (common charges directed against psycho-analytic theory): They are not parallel dinIensions or orders; rather, they run into, as, and

~ough each other. This means that individuals, subjects, microintensities, blend WIth, connect to, neighborhood, local, regional, social, cultural, aesthetic, and economic relations directly, not through mediation of systems of ideology or representation, not through the central organisation of an apparatus like the state or th~economic order, but directly, in the formation of desiring-machines, war- machines, etc. Questions related to subjectivity, interiority, female sexual specificity, are thus not symptoms of a patriarchal culture, not simply products or effects of it, but are forces, intensities, requiring codifications or territorialisations and in turn exerting their own deterritorialising and decodifying force systems of

compliance and resistance. (Grosz, 1994b, p. 180)


Then, in part, I want to concentrate on Deleuze, because he provides what Grosz (1994b) has called the element of 'voluptuous passion', which some theorists of practice tend to miss, or underplay, and which allows me to incorporate into my account of theories of practice an erotics of

unites the two. 20 And

finally, in part, I want to concentrate on Deleuze because of his writing strategy, with its attention to a poetics of folding and unfolding, deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation, and, in general a constancy marked only by its inconstancy.

Deleuze wishes to write a baroque 'theory' of practice, one which, like his almost ecological notions of subjectivity, is full of swirls and whorls,

pleats and folds, 'not an essence, but rather

(Deleuze, 1993, p. 3). In other words, Deleuze is pointing to ways of writing the world that are continuous, that do not flatten into a concept or world pictnre and which allow the maximum of 'tactical resourcefulness' (Conley, 1993).

thinking, sexuality and

a sort of·promiscuity that

an operative function'



Deleuze offers a number of insights for theories of practice. First, he a theory of practice out of an almost entirely different theoretical (Bogue, 1989; Broadhurst, 1992; Boundas, 1993; Hardt, 1993; and Olkowski, 1994). His mentors include a recast Bergson (who Deleuze to displace consciousness, with its function of casting light things, by a new field of 'nomadic' singularities, intensive magnitudes are pre-individual and pre-personal), a reworked Spinoza (who an ethology of striving passions that can energise this field), a Nietszche and Foucault (who enable Deleuze to reflect on how






of 'outside'


reproducing a philosophy of interiority) and, latterly, a renovated

(who provides an account of the constitution of the 'individual').

,S'econd, Deleuze concentrates, most especially via Spinoza and Nietszche,

been neglected in other

of practice that we might call, after Brennan (1993), the 'energetics' 'activity, joy, affirmation and dynamic becoming' (Braidotti, 1994, p. Most particularly, that means that life is refigured as a slip-sliding of intensity and impersonal forces. This allows Deleuze to rework ideas body, thinking and the self. Thus the body becomes a 'complex n~rpl!lY of highly constructed social and symbolic forces. The body is not ·~;SC;U\;,C;, let alone a biological substance. It is a play of forces, a surface pure simulacra without originals' (Braidotti, 1994, p. 163).

llP~Wl.llU""> of force and affect that have sometimes

itself becomes an interplay of forces. Deleuze brings to the fore.

affective foundations of the thinking process. It is as if beyondlbehind the

:'pt'opl:lSition.aI content of an idea there lay another category - the affective force,

that conveys the idea and ultimately

i~)ve:rns its truth value. Thinking, in other words, is. to a very large extent ,;W1co:nscious, in that it expresses.the desire to know, and this desire is that which be adequately expressed in language, simply because it is that which language. (Braidotti, 1994, p. 165)

of intensity, desire and affinity -

the self becomes both disjunctive and nomadic, a highly variable stance attuned to Deleuze's basic message that 'everything in the is encounters, happy or unhappy encounters' (Deleuze and Parnet,


)iifFhiird. Deleuze produces a radically different idea of subjectivity,21 one privileges intensity, multiplicity, productivity and discontinuity, one is pitted against Lacan's negative vision of desire as lack, and one hunts down all notions of interiority 'in search of an inside that lies than any internal world' (Deleuze, 1993, p. 163). One might argue that what is left is simply the classical poststructuralist subject without much subject, but this would be unfair. It would be more accurate to write that, just like Latour, Deleuze wants to redefine 'human' around a new 'ethical' constituti9Jl:

In the wake of Spinoza's understanding of ethics, ethics is conceived of as the capacity for action and passion, activity and passivity; good and bad refer to the ability to increase and decrease one's capacities and strengths and abilities. Given



the vast and necessary interrelation and mutual affectivity of all beings on all others (a notion, incidentally, still very far opposed to the rampant moralism underlying ecological and environmental politics, which also stress interrelated- nes~ but do s~ in a necessarily prescriptive and judgemental fashion, presuming notions of UnIty and wholeness, integration and cooperation rather than as do Deleuze and Guattari, simply describing interrelations and connections ~thout su~s~g.them to an overarching, wider system or totality), the question of

or an assemblage's capacities

and abilIties are raIsed. UnlIke LeVInaSlan ethics, which is still modelled on a subject-to-subject, self-to-other, relation, the relation of a being respected in its

auto~om! from the other as. a necessarily independent autonomous being - the cuhnination and final. ~owermg of a .p~enomenological notion of the subject _ Del~uze and. Guattari In no way pnvtlege the human, autonomous, sovereign sU~Ject: the Independent other; or the bonds of communication and represen- ~tiO~ bet~een,them. They are concerned more with what psychoanalysis calls parti~ obJects: org:ms, pr~ess~, and flows, which show no respect for the a~~ormg of the .subJect. Ethics. IS the sphere of judgement regarding the possi- bility and actuality of connections, arrangements, lineages, machines. (Grosz,

ethics 1~ .r~sed whe~ever the .questi,o~ Of. a bein¥'s,

1994a, p. 197)

Modest Theory

I have now outlined a background. In this section I want to propose a theoretical synthesis. But it is important to note that I am not trying to offer a fully finished theoretical programme. What I want to provide here is theory with a lighter touch. In part, this is because I do not want to participate in 'fantasies of an unimpeachable method, of adequate represen- tations of reality, [or] of an intellectual "turn" that will enable the critics to write the world newly, free of the prejudice of the past' (Bordo and , Moussa, 1993, p. 122). In part, it is also because I want to avoid a theory- centred style which continually avoids the taint of particularity.22 Such a style seems to me to perpetuate the kind of critical imperialism that so many writers have been at such pains to banish. And in part, it is because I w:m t to point up th~i~portanceof practices as valid in themselves, existing WIthout need of valIdation: by some fully settled, monochromatic theory. In str~ssing the importance of practices I also hope to make a clearing for VOIceS that speak from outside the. authorised scholarly discourse whilst simultaneously recognising that this ambition is only necessary to an extent since the scholarly discourse-network is but one of many forms of practice:

In other words, I want to point to the perpetually inadequate (but not thereby unnecessary) powers of theory. In 1987, I wrote that my vision of theory was closer to a hand torch than a floodlight (J987p). I would not make this analogy, with its emphasis on a single-sourced vision, in quite the same way now, but the sentiments still hold. Thus, in what follows, I want to provide some nearly aphoristic guide- lin~s, most .of which are prefigured in the earlier section of this chapter, which are mtended to summarise a particular style of thought (Wood, 1990), which, like certain kinds of poststructuralist thought, stresses radical



~onlplc~tellleSS and contextuality (J992a), but which, unlike these same of thought,23 also stresses the limits and boundaries to that kind of

Ontology. The ontology I want to offer is best described as a 'weak (but not in Vattimo's [1988] sense), based upon the existence of k1J~U"""'" order of connection, a non-subjective logic of encounters, a connected ,physicalism' consisting of 'multitudinous pafus which which works through things rather than imposes itself upon them outside and above'24 (Brennan, 1993, p. 86). Brennan claims that this of 'energetic ontology' is already recognised in Spinoza's philosophy . basic physical logic of presences and absences but has subsequently obscured by the too easy equation of any order of connection with rather than with positive creation:

Spinoza sees logic as existing independently and prior to the human because he does not split thought and matter, Spinoza's philosophy is in guilty of most of the charges levelled against the 'metaphysical systemS tra:nsoena.entaI subject of reason' (supply your favourite reference). He dispossesses the subject of exclusive clainIs to the logos, in a magnificent osse:SSlOln. (Brennan, 1993, p. 88)

"lOJilOV\,S that this kind of energetic ontology is based on a commitment , affirmation and dynamic becoming. Following Deleuze, I want away from the guilt-ridden and life-denying tone of much western However, this does not have to mean too enthusiastically em- kinetic vision of nomadism, for three reasons. First, although an analysis is necessarily future-oriented, this does not have to mean of the present (a sin of which Andrew Benjamin [1993J >".tIlell:legget'}. It is only to suggest that· activity is future-oriented ~pcm()mlatlve. Second, although an energetic ontology is oriented to tllis does not mean that it has to ignore spatial fixity or the boundaries. Space is striated, which is both a negative and a COllOlIlOn of existence. Third, an energetic ontology is committed ultiplil:l1ty but the process of multiplication is not unconstrained or In particular, recognition has to be given to tneimportance of presences 'and absences (as well as linguistic presences and in .producing breaks, lacunae and emissions which interrupt and encountering. of this kind of energetic ontology can be found in a number of




authors. For example, it is there in Deleuze (although it is,

too quickly transferred into pulsing flows). It can be found in (for example, Giddens, 1984) as interaction in contexts of co- bn~llce. It can also be found in Bhaskar's (1993) most recent exposition of di~Llec:tic. For Bhaskar (1993, p. 53) 'all changes are spatio-temporal, space-time is a relational property of the meshwork of material beings', and he is sure that this in turn means that as much attention needs to be paid to absence as presence. For example, practices involve observing from situations as much as they involve being. present within them.



(2) Epistemology. This weak ontology is shadowed by a weak epistem- ology. It has become increasingly clear that there are very strong limits on what can be known and how we can know it because of the way human subjects are embodied as beings in time-space, because of our positioning in social relations, and because there are numerous perspectives on, and metaphors of, what even counts as knowledge or, more precisely, knowledges. This does not mean that it is necessary to opt for an unabashed nihilism or relativism, but it does mean that we cannot do much better than Haraway in arguing for

politics and epistemologies of location, positioning and situating, where partiality and not universality is the condition of being heard to make rational knowledge claims. These are claims on people's lives; the view from a body, always a complex, contradictory, structuring and structured body, versus the view from above, from nowhere, from simplicity. (Haraway, 1991a, p. 195)

Haraway's idea of 'situated knowledges' argues for the existence of an archipelago of radically contingent knowledges (Serres, 1982) but she still believes that a kind of objectivity can be attained through acknowledging embodiment and by framing 'the object of knowledge as an actor and agent, not a screen or a ground or a resource, never finally as slave to the master that closes off thedia1ecti<: in his unique agency and authorship of "objective" knowledge' (Haraway, 1991a, p. 198). In practire,such a stance (and I mean to indicate the resonanre with theories of practice with this term) must mean a number of things. First of all, it requires an attitude of suspicion towards totalisingaecounts (1987p). As Meaghan Morris (1992a) has put it, in her critique of David Harvey's Enlightenment cravings in The Condition of Postmoderniiy (1989),the 'remedy of wholeness' is not a remedy but a disease and,· in any case, it is usually a sign of an author intent on constructing another.

Second, it follows that concepts should be seen in a different way. Most particularly, they need to be seen as 'open' or indefinite (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992). As Wittgenstein(1980, p. 653) put it, 'if a concept depends on a pattemoflife, then there must be some indefiniteness to it.' In practice, this means that"conreptsmust be 'polymorphic, supple and adaptable, rather than defined, ca1ibratedand used rigidly' (Bourdieu and



1992, p. 23). Further, they must remain relatively general and spinning out 'middle.,.range'· theories is likely to be unproduc-

tive because it produces both an illusion of decideability and a tendency to calcification; too much rigour produces rigor mortis (Lakoff, 1987). (We might even go farther still and write concepts as Deleuze and Guattari [1983, 1994] do, as image-.concepts - fragmentary wholes whose main purpose is to resonate, intensities whose main purpose is to set up new events; 'hitherto unsuspected possibilities of life and action'[Braidotti, 1994, p. 165]. For Deleuze and Guattari thinking is about finding these new passions and letting them rip.) But equally, as Haraway makes clear, this does not mean that it is necessary to drop all pretensions to evidentialisation




fC()Dcepts. One of the blights of the recent rise of cultural studies has been paper which is founded on the principle of 'if you can say it, it's so'

1995, p. 396), a principle to which Haraway would undoubtedly



opposed. because what we know and how we know it is situated, it follows a practical or situated way of knowing is contextual, and rooted in embodiment (1995c). In particular, this can mean a new role bodily image-concepts like experience and self as critical practices, as mapped out by authors like Game (1991) and Probyn (1992). It Iilso. the working up of new figurations of the subject, hybrid figurations Haraway's 'cyborg', which can articulate new relations of experience self. Further, this line of argument suggests a much greater decentring LCrudel1nlC accounts than has heretofore been accepted. If we live in joint others, then it is clear that our discourses cannot be privileged. go farther and consider the ways in which academic accounts only downgraded the importance of practical activity by trying to it as representations (M~ Morris, 1988), but may also have its power: the historical trace of practical intelligibility still in our gestures and in our stances. and relatedly, I take it that any situated epistemology must be but at the same time I do not believe that this has to mean the 'subjective' experience has to be inexorably written into accounts,

vogue in certain of the current crop of autoethnographies: 'this not only the privileged place of experience, but the placeoithe author's experience' (Grossberg, 1988, p. 67). Smntttar:lSe, a situated epistemology would renounce systematic theory ora stance much more like Shotter's-(1993a,p. 15) 'practical



ofan image 'tool-kit' [which] respects theunfinaIisable nature of even the fact that dialogic forms of taIkoceur within 'a plurality of

consciousnesses' (Bakhtin,1984 (1968),p


For although these may

u,p()Dl,eSQ1urces (to an extent)held in common, every voice, every way of different evalUative stance, a different way of being or with a differential access to such resources. It is this that ~e:verY911e in permanent dialogue with everyone else, which gives all the .·I>{I:>cel!ses to us their intrinsic dynamic. And by studying the different different people,and different times in different contexts, resolve tb:<~~.~ilernm:as they ·face in ·practic!!, we· can both characterise the resources i;~\T@l1bl,eto them in these contexts at those times and 'plot', so to speak, their ::;Pi".!<tJl!;;ll.! economy, that is, thefact that they are very much more scarce in some and·moments of our social ecology than others.



ontological and epistemological stance I have outlined might be <telrIIle:a a kind of historicism, in that it stresses the historical and geogra- variability of systems of social practices. Certainly, I agree with Castoriadis (1987, p. 3) that:

There exists no place, no point of view outside of history and society, or 'logically prior' to them, where one could be placed in order to construct a theory of them



- a place from which to inspect them, contemplate them, affirm the determined necessity of their being - thus, constitute them, reflect upon them or reflect them in their totality. Every thought of society and of history itself belongs to society and to history. Every thought, whatever it may be and whatever may be its 'object', is but a mode and a form of social-historical doing.

However, if this is a historicist stance, it is a pretty weak version of it, since, rather like the work ofthe new historicists (Veesev, 1989), its aim is a stance which rejects some of the fundamental tenets of historicism. First, I reject strong historicist programmes which construct grand schemes of historical development and progress, and protean temporalities. Then, second, I make no claim to an absolute historical transcendence in the sense that there is always something that escapes. There is always some- thing that lies outside knowledge. There is always something that cannot be described. In other words, the claim to an absolute historical transcendence has to be rejected, and for two reasons. One is, quite simply, that social space cannot be reduced to the relations that fill it. The other is that as '

Copjec (1994b, p. 3) puts it, .

What's common to both the Lacanian and Foucauldian [view] is a distinction between two sets of existence, one implied by the verb exister and the other by the phrase il Y a. The existence implied by the first is subject to a predicative judgement as well as to ajudgement of existence; that is, it is an existence whose character or quality can. be described. The existence implied by the second is subject only to a judgement of existence; we can say only that it does or does not exist, without being able to say what it is, to describe it in anyway.

The point about transcendence .deserves further expansion. For if it is clear that the reasoning outlined above implies 'the whole of something win never reveal itself in an analytical moment; no diagram will ever be able to display it fully, once and for all' (Copjec, 1994b, p. 8), then, as Copjec goes on to write, the consequences of such a statement are not. For example, such an acknowledgemenldoes .notcoDlpel us

to imagine a society that never quite forms, where - asthe deconstructionists would have it - events neverquite take place, a society about which we can say nothing and do. so in aneildles~successionofstatements that forever fail to come around to the same relevantpoiht. To: say that there is no metalanguage is to say, rather, that society neverslops.l'ealising·itse!f. that it continues to be formed over time. (Copjec, 1994b,pp.g"':9)

Copjec's answer to the innatetetnporalityofthe institution of the social is Lacanian, involving the diagraminingof society's generative principle as


travel another road, one that starts with Husserl's phenomenology, which was, of course, introduced primarily as a means of escaping historicism. Husserl wanted to lead philosophy back to the pursuit of incontrovertible truths by means of the description of the things presented to our experience and the description of our experience of them: 'back to the things them- selves!', as Husserl puts it. Because Husserl's phenomenology 'bracketed' or suspended belief in all metaphysical constructs in order to focus solely on

located in the order of the real,. outside everyday reality. But I want



shows up as it presents itself in our experience, its findings were to be apodictic. The standard story has it that this enterprise runs into the sand:

early Heidegger came along and raised questions about the viability of fUsi!erlian phenomenology by taking an 'interpretative' turn. What is most mm,n"'''T about Heidegger's hermeneutic ontology, so the story goes, is his of the significance of the finitude, worldliness, and historicity of our predicament - the recognition that our access to things is always coloured preshaped by the sense of things circulating in our historical culture. The then concludes with poststructuralist and various postmodem thinkers a nostalgia for metaphysics even in such Heideggerian concepts as· finitude, and history. Jacques Derrida, especially, points out $at seems to be trapped in essentialism and totalisation, twin sins of 'm;eta]ph:y'sics of presence' that his hermeneutic approach was supposed (Dostal, 1993, p. 141)

I hope I have shown in the preceding section of this chapter is is not that simple (see also Dreyfus, 1991; Game, 1991; Shotter, 1993a, 1993b). Another story can be told which can ~UJ>POi;e the phenomenology of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty and it. This is a story which is based on seeing the agent as his form ofiife, history (or culture) or bodily existence, of shaping employed here is one that implies a quite of relation to the world from the ordinary casual link that confused with~ Shotter's and Taylor's (I993b) use of ~Witt~~en:stei,niamnotions like engaged agency and background closest to describing this relation;. their concern is with

conditions of intelligib{Jity of certain terms of experience,

in which this experience is described are thus given their • ., to this form of embodiment'(faylor, 1993b, p. 319). sensibility', whatCastoriadis (1987) calls the work of what I am trying to cultivate, but it is not a sensibility confused with the standard philosophical quest for



relies on. the notion ofa fixed semantic space, chosen

the possible. combinations, ·which I can then mean.· Or, to

succinctly still:

wemake for philosophical expla:natiouscome, seem to come, from lU.Wlll\';fi. we are, as it w~re, looking down onto the relation. between

reality, s().ry,e kind of factor re~ possibility•. We think that we our questions about it. Our questions are formed from [Ol·din.arv life,· but the ways we·uSually ask and ·answer questions, our interests, the forms our reasoning and inquiries take, look from

'rags'. Our own .linguistic constructions, cut free from

:COllstraints of their ordinary functioning, take us in: the characteristic form of precisely of philosophy as an area of inquiry, in the sense in which

,~pos~uc'n to be

with it. (Diamond, 1991, pp. 69-70)

rx.rltZt:s. This ontological-epistemological stance also implies a certain of ethics. It should be clear by now that I have an antipathy for



grand theories which abstract and decontextualise by extracting and then reapplying a set of principles from one set of practices to another (Butler, 1994), and this antipathy extends to theories of comprehensive social ideals.

It seems to me that ideal theories - theories of the principles that perfectly just societies would implement - often distract attention from pressing social problems and that, when these problems are addressed through ideal theories, the Ideas they commend are too stringent to be helpful for purposes of devising feasible solutions in a profoundly nonideal world. Abstracting from the realities of pervasive and persistent injustice and historical animosity between social groups, ideal theory overlooks the problems of entrenched domination and oppression, offers (at best) vague guidelines for eliminating these evils, and even obstructs social change by locking in place ostensibly neutral standards that in fact disadvantage some social groups. (Meyers, 1994, p. I)

It is no surprise, then, that the account that I would want to offer of moral reflection emphasises the body, affect and expressiveness, emotion and rhetoric. Most particularly, I look toward three sets of writings. First, there are the psychoanalytic feminists like Jessica Benjamin who object to moral philosophy's conception of people as monastic subjects who are essentially rational and homogeneous bearers of duties and seekers after rights and who stress 'the role of culturally transmitted imagery in shaping people's moral perception, the contribution of empathy to moral reflection, and the potential of a complex moral identity to enhance moral insight' (Meyers, 1994, p. 3). For these writers, moral reflection demands mutual recognition, to use Benjamin's (1988) phrase, an empathy with others which, in turn, requires: counter-figurational strategies· which symbolise the practices of disadvantaged groups in productive ways; notions of the responsible act as heterogeneous; and concepts of moral identity as able to take into account capacities and limitations. Thus,

instead of seeing moral refiectfonas the application of an overriding philo- sophic~yapproved criterion. of right and wrong to a set of available options, the latter VIew sees moral judgement .as a process of interpreting the moral signficance ofvarious cases of conduct that one might undertake both in light of one's own values and capabilities and also in light of one's understanding of others' needs and circumstances. (Meyers;. 1994, p. 17)

Second, there are 'materialist feminists' like Noddings (1984) and Ruddick (1996) who, drawing 011 the work of Gilligan (1982) amongst others, lay emphasis on an'ethics;<ofcare', .derived from the example of mothering, which stresses receptiveness to others, pragmatism as a distinc- tive way of dealing with real life rather than theoretical situatious, and non- violence (Lovibond, 1994a). This approach, which has much to commend it, also has serious flaws (Lovibond, 1994b). But these flaws can be overcome by a turn to the third set of writings: intuitionist or neo- Aristotelian ethics (platts, 1979; Anscombe, 1981; Hurley, 1985; R. Williams, 1985; Nussbaum, 1996; Wiggins, 1991; Dancy, 1993). This is an active and practical form of ethics founded in an evaluative sensibility arising from the concrete experience of specific situations (what Dancy